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Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳)

Print: Minamoto Yorimasa (源三位頼政 - here Genzanmi Yorimasa) on the left has shot the nue (鵺) - Ii no Hayata Hironao (猪早太廣直) in the center is about to finish it off. On the right panel is Watanabe Tadashi? (渡邉丁七唱)

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Dates: circa 1820 - 1825,created
Dimensions: 30.75 in,14.25 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: color woodblock print
Inscription:

Signed: Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi ga
一勇斎国芳画
Publisher: Yamamotoya Heikichi (Marks 595 - 04-007)
Censor's seal: kiwame

Related links: British Museum - links to all three panels; Database of Folklore Illustrations; National Museums Scotland - middle panel; National Museums Scotland - left-hand panel; National Museums Scotland - right-hand panel;

Physical description:

B. W. Robinson in his book Kuniyoshi published in 1961 gives the dates for this triptych as ca. 1820-25.

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There are four other prints in the Lyon Collection which deal with the theme of Yorimasa's slaying of the nue: #584 by Shunshi; #567 by Hokushū; #909 by Kuniyoshi; and #1170 by Ashiyuki.

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The story of the slaying of the nue appears in Book 4, Section 15 - 'The Nightbird' - of The Tale of Heike. The emperor has been disturbed by nightmares and it was thought that these must have a physical manifestation. So, Yorimasa is called in to slay the monster which is causing these nightly disturbances. Below is the translation provided by Royall Tyler:

At the hour foreseen for His Majesty's torment, a black cloud moved, as those who knew said it would, from toward the grove at Tōsanjō, then settled over where the emperor lay. Yorimasa, glancing up sharply, saw iin it a strange shape. He knew he was finished if he missed.

Nonetheless he took an arrow,
fitted it carefully to the string,
called in the secret depths of his heart,
"Hail, Great Bodhisattva Hachiman!,"
drew to the full, and let fly.
He had a hit; his arm felt it.
"Got him!" He gave the archer's yell.
I no Hayata swiftly approached,
found where the thing had fallen,
and ran it through nine times with his sword
Everyone there brought up light
for a good look at whatever it was:
a monkey's head, a badger's body,
a snake's tail, the limbs of a tiger,
and a cry like that of a thrush.
"Frightening" is hardly the word.

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Illustrated in 1) in Ukiyo-e dai musha-e ten - 浮世絵大武者絵展 - (The Samurai World in Ukiyo-e), edited by Yuriko Iwakiri, Machida City Museum of Graphic Arts, 2003, #186, p. 64. [This example is in the Nagoya City Museum.]

Also, illustrated in black and white in 2) in 原色浮世絵大百科事典 (Genshoku Ukiyoe Daihyakka Jiten), vol. 4, p. 57.