Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳)

Print: Yoshitsune and his twenty one retainers on a ship (Yoshitsune no kenin ikki-tosen no niju-ikki no zu - 義経之家人一騎当千廾一騎之図)

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Dates: circa 1836,created
Dimensions: 9.625 in,14.375 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese color woodblock print

Signed: Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi ga
Publisher: Izumiya Ichibei
(Marks 180 - seal 21-236)

Related links: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - a similar triptych ; British Museum - also similar; Mead Art Museum, Amherst - similar; Waseda University - right panel; Waseda University - center panel; Waseda University - left panel; Fujisawa Ukiyo-e Museum;

Physical description:

Prominently displayed on the ship is the personal Minamoto clan crest, the sasarindō.

Mark Griffiths wrote about the sasarindō on page 245 in his The Lotus Quest: In Search of the Sacred Flower: "The personal, rather than clan mon of Minamoto no Yoritomo was the sasarindō, a design in which three flowers of rindō (the Japanese gentian, Gentiana scabra or G. makinoi) sit above three leaves of the shrubby bamboo Sasa. The gentian was characteristic of the damp grassland flora of Southern Japan, while the bamboo was a signature plant of the North. This elegant posy is iconographic code for the shogun: the North is subjugated by the South; the country united under his military authority."


Yoshitsune and his twenty-one retainers in a ship with Benkei at the prow ('Yoshitsune no kenin ikki-tosen no niju-ikki no zu').

Robinson T32


In researching this triptych a number of curious points arose. For example, in the British Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston there are similar triptychs, but with different signatures, although they are all by Kuniyoshi. All three sheets in the Lyon Collection are signed "Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi ga" while the ones in Boston and London carry the signature Chōōro Kuniyoshi ga (朝櫻楼国芳画) on five of their six panels. Also, the triptychs in London and Boston carry the 'kiwame' censor's seal. Not only is there no 'kiwame' censor's seal present on the Lyon triptych, but there is no publisher's seal on the middle panel. There are printings of this triptych which include the artist's kiri seal, but not the ones here, in Boston or in London.

Even the title cartouche's are different. The Lyon Collection title is much longer than those on other printings which use the simpler and shorter Yoshitsune no jūku-shin (義経十九臣). There are other differences, too. A much closer inspection shows that the example in the Lyon Collection is from different blocks entirely, but based on exactly the same theme and layout.

Could any of this mean that the triptych shown here is the earlier version? There is no way to tell for sure, but it is interesting to speculate.


Two characters identified by cartouches in the lower left of the center panel are Kamei Rokurō Shigekiyo (亀井六郎重清) and Suruga no Jirō Kiyoshige (駿河次郎清重). They appear in other triptychs in the Lyon Collection. See #s 228 and 685.