This site requires that you enable Javascript to function properly Scholten Japanese Art | Woodblock Prints | Tsukioka Yoshitoshi Picture of the Demon Omatsu Killing Shirosaburo
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Yoshitoshi
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.
Published:
Highlights of Japanese Printmaking: Part Five - Yoshitoshi, Scholten Japanese Art, New York, 2017, cat. no. 89
References:
Roger Keyes, Courage and Silence, 1983, p. 469, no. 479.17
Shinichi Segi, Yoshitoshi the Splendid Decadent, 1985, p. 71, no. 37
Eric van den Ing & Robert Schaap, Beauty and Violence, 1992, p. 78, no. 55.17
Akita Museum of Modern Art, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi: The Last Ukiyo-e Artist of Genius, 1999, p. 32, no. 104
Ota Memorial Museum of Art, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi: 120th Memorial Retrospective, 2012, p. 125, no. 187
Yuriko Iwakiri, Yoshitoshi, 2014, p. 133, no. 196
price: $ 2,700