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The Former Emperor from Sanuki Sends His Retainers to Rescue Tametomo (1851)

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About the Art

In this stunning triptych, Kuniyoshi ingeniously combines three episodes from the story of legendary samurai Minamoto no Tametomo's voyage from Kyushu to Kyoto.

Engulfed by a raging sea, we see the samurai shipwrecked and about to commit suicide, before a group of "Tengu" (mythical half-bird, half-man creatures) swoop down to rescue him. The winged spirits have been sent by the emperor Sanuki.

In the center, Tametomo's retainer rides an enormous "crocodile-shark", cradling Tametomo's son in his arms. The monster first tried to eat them, but was pacified and is now saving them from drowning.

On the right, Tametomo's wife, Princess Shiranui has thrown herself into the waves, in a vain attempt to calm the storm.

Kuniyoshi renders some exquisite details in this large-form print, such as the scales and spirals of the monster "wanizame", and the tumultuous waves and clawing spray, after Hokusai.

Illustrations that celebrated tales of war and heroism from the past was a classic genre in Ukiyo-e. This particular story hails from the clash Taira and Minamoto forces in the battle of Hogen (1156).

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