no. 7, The Renown Archer Minamoto Yoshiie
By Kobayashi Kiyochika
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Medium: woodcut/woodblock/ukiyo-e, woodblock
Edition size: n/a
Sheet size: 36.3 by 23.9 cm
Price: $575 (excl. taxes)
embellished with a dusting of mica in the background, the series title, Kyodo Risshi no Moto, in a banner above the composition framed by a decorative brocade border, signed Kiyochika with artist's seal Kiyochika, with a stylized cartouche on the bottom margin with the design number, 7, the publication date to the right, on todoke Meiji jukyunen (registered Meiji 19 ) and to the left, Gako ken shuppan Ryogoku Yoshikawacho 2-banchi Matsuki Heikichi ban, published by Matsuki Heikichi of Daikokuya, 1886
oban tate-e 14 1/4 by 9 3/8 in., 36.3 by 23.9 cm
In 1885, the publisher Matsuki Heikichi IV (Matsuki Toko, 1836-1891) of Daikokuya began issuing a collaborative series featuring heroic men and women from history and modern times who demonstrate admirable qualities. The series title has been read variously as Kyodo risshiki, Kyodo risshi no motoi, and Kyodo risshi no moto; while there are no fewer than eight translations into English, including, Instructive Models of Lofty Ambitions, Heroes and Heroines of Moral Tales, Foundations of Learning and Achievement, Paragons of Instruction and Success, and so on. While the table of contents for the series lists 50 designs, there are 58 designs recorded. Seven artists contributed to the series, with Kiyochika providing the most designs at 20, and his student Inoue Yasuji (1864-1889) completed 13 designs. Considering Kiyochika's upbringing within a samurai family and his own experiences in battles during the Boshin War, one could imagine he found the theme meaningful. At the conclusion of production in 1890 the publisher was recognized by the government for producing such a worthy project.
This print illustrates the famous archer Minamoto Yoshiie (1039-1106) who was known in his own time as 'the samurai of greatest bravery under heaven.' In one famous account, depicted here, Yoshiie was en route to a battle when he noticed a flock of geese rising from a field. Suspecting that the enemy was hiding in the grasses, he sent his men to rouse them where they found more than thirty lying in wait. His cunning understanding of military strategy earned him the respect and gratitude of his men.
Julia Meech-Pekarik, The World of the Meiji Print: Impressions of a New Civilization, 1986, p. 122 (on series)
The Lavenberg Collection of Japanese Prints (myjapanesehanga.com)
Edo Tokyo Museum, accession no. 96200372