Demon Omatsu Killing Shirosaburo

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1839-1892

New Selection of Eastern Brocade Pictures: Picture of the Demon Omatsu Killing Shirosaburo
(Shinsen axuma nishiki-e: Kishin Omatsu Shirosaburo o korosu zu)

signed Yoshitoshi, with artist's seal Taiso, carved by Enkatsu, and publisher's date and address seal Meiji jukyunen, sangatsu, nijunika; [Tokyo Nihonbashi] Bakurocho Nichome 14-banchi, shuppanjin Tsunashima Kamekichi (Meiji 19 [1886], March 22) of Tsujiokaya Kamekichi of Kinkido and Tosendo

oban tate-e diptych 14 5/8 by 20 1/8 in., 37.3 by 51.2 cm

Originating from a 14th-century legend, the samurai Shirosaburo suffers treachery at the hands of the beauty Kishin (lit. devil') Omatsu who he carries on his back across a swiftly flowing river. Shirosaburo is based on the historical warrior Omori Hikoshichi, an officer in the service of Ashikaga Takauji (1305-1358) who following their victory in the 1336 Battle of Minatogawa is said to have nearly been assassinated while carrying the daughter of the defeated warrior Kusunoki Masashige (1294-1336) across a river. Following adaptions in Noh theater, Omori Hikoshichi's tale found its way to kabuki through the character Shirosaburo. Though the adaptations are many and varied, the image of a woman attacking the samurai who carries her across the water is a consistent one. In some plays she is the daughter of Masashige, in others she is Shirosaburo's deceased wife who he had murdered while she was disguised as a highwayman, while in yet another version she is a demon looking for a lost sword. Though we cannot say with certainty which adaptation Yoshitoshi chose to depict here, her identification as kishin in the title suggests she is a demon or a spirit, perhaps from a version featuring the vengeful ghost of Shirosaburo's late wife.

Yoshitoshi would later depict the tale of Omori Hikoshichi in 1889 for the series New Forms of Thirty-Six Ghosts.

Keyes 1983, p. 469, no. 479.17
Segi 1985, p. 71, no. 37
van den Ing & Schaap 1992, p. 78, no. 55.17
Akita Museum of Modern Art 1999, p. 32, no. 104
Ota Memorial Museum of Art, 2012, p. 125, no. 187
Iwakiri, 2014, p. 133, no. 196



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