Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1839-1892
Eight Views of Warriors' Fine Tales: Descending Geese Over Yahagi Bridge
(Bidan Musha Hakkei: Yahagi no Rakugan)
signed Ikkaisai Yoshitoshi, with artist's seal Tsukioka, carver's mark unread (possibly Utamitsu), publisher's seal Kinseido (Sanoya Tomigoro of Kinseido), and combined censor and date seal Tatsu-ni, aratame (year of the dragon , 2nd lunar month, examined)
oban tate-e triptych 14 1/2 by 29 7/8 in., 36.9 by 76 cm
This composition depicts an early episode from legendary life of the future daimyo Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598), who along with his ally Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582) played a significant role in the unification of Japan that ended a long period of civil war. The Yahagi Bridge scene, from the kabuki play The Mesh Pattern and the Lantern with the Chrysanthemum and Paulownia Crest (Amimoyo toro no kikukiri), portrays the warrior, known by his childhood name of Hiyoshimaru, as an itinerant boy who had run away from an apprenticeship. Sleeping on the Yahagi Bridge located in the castle town of Okazaki, Hiyoshimaru is awakened by a gang of robbers led by the central figure Hachisuba Hakkei. The two strike up a conversation, and the young Hideyoshi eventually joins their company. Later in life, Hakkei becomes one of Hideyoshi's primary followers and is made the feudal lord of a number of fiefdoms. Notably, the Yahagi bridge scene, which had been introduced to add variety to a performance which would last for many hours, is rarely staged today because it does little to advance the narrative of the play.
Highlights of Japanese Printmaking: Part Five - Yoshitoshi, Scholten Japanese Art, New York, 2017, cat. no. 28
Aubrey S. Halford & Giovanna M. Halford, The Kabuki Handbook, 1956, pp. 3-8 (re: play)
Roger Keyes, Courage and Silence, 1983, p. 375, no. 200.6
Eric van den Ing & Robert Schaap, Beauty and Violence, 1992, p. 105, no. 19.6
Samuel L. Leiter, Historical Dictionary of Japanese Traditional Theater, 2014, p. 450
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