Utagawa Yoshitsuya – Sassa Masanari Going over the Mountain, Fifty-four Battle Stories of Hisago Army


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Yoshitsuya, Utagawa


(A) Very Fine Condition






Oban (10"x15")


Landscape, Samurai / Warrior, Snow, Story

Around 1864, Yoshitsuya created an incredible series of prints based on the legendary exploits of General Toyotomi Hideyoshi and his brave retainers. Hideyoshi’s army was nicknamed “Hisago” (gourds) after the general’s gourd crest, hence the title of the series. As a young samurai, Hideyoshi went by the name of Konoshita Sokichiro, so episodes earlier in his life refer to him by this name. He later joined the Oda clan, eventually becoming Japan’s second great “unifier” following the death of Oda Nobunaga. With vibrant color, wonderful attention to detail, and masterful compositions, these images are brimming with energy and action.

A great choice for a samurai enthusiast; we’ve affectionately referred to this piece as the “Samurai Avalanche” and wondered what it could have sounded like.

The Woodblock Print

This woodblock print is in very good condition considering it is from 1864. The print is thinly backed, which has resulted in a few ripples in the paper, but these are minor. A few minor foxing spots throughout the piece, but nothing that hinders the visual image in any way. The decorated margins are mostly intact based on what we’ve seen in other copies of this print, and the colors are still rich.

About the Artist

Utagawa Yoshitsuya (1822 – 1866) was a pupil of Utagawa Kuniyoshi and became a notable ukiyo-e printmaker and illustrator of the 19th century. Growing up during the late Edo period, Yoshitsuya experienced the sharp decline of the political stability that defined the early Edo period. As the 1840s brought famine and economic despair, the Shogunate introduced the Tenpo Reforms (1841-1842), edicts banning the depiction of actors and courtesans in ukiyo-e in an effort to remove the “luxury” from printmaking. Yoshitsuya’s work focuses mainly on triumphant warriors of Japanese history and legend; ome of his noted series include “54 Battle Stories by Hideyoshi”, presenting 54 scenes of Japan’s 16th-century unifier, and “The Scenic Places of Tokaido”, which he completed with a group of top artists and publishers of his time.