Series: The Meiji period (明治時代, Meiji-jidai)
Restoration: 1868 -1912
Category: Women Samurai
Accession Number: DFJN2020PRWS00019
Title (Original): 赤ちゃんを抱く戦士
Title: Akachan o daku senshi
Translated Title: Warrior Holding a Baby
Artist: Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900)
Medium: Japanese woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and colour on paper
Publisher (Original): 表記無し
Engraver: Hori Yata
Publication Date: 1884
Acquisition Date: 26 / 11 / 2020
Country of origin: Japan
Size: Vertical ōban. Triptych. 27 ½ x 14 (inches). 69.3 x 35.7cm
Condition: Excellent colour and detail. Three separate panels. Small losses and few small tears at edges and holes (repaired). A few creases. Slight toning.
Intriguing kabuki scene of a warrior in armour protectively cradling what looks like a tiny baby swathed in red cloth to his chest (Ichikawa Danjuro as Omiya Daisuke). He frowns as he looks up at a wild-haired samurai at right who scowls back at him, a knife in his hand (Suketakaya Takasuke as Katsuyori) . At left, a third samurai shields his eyes with his hand as he scans the horizon, a concerned expression on his face (actor Sawamura Tosshi as Tsujita Togen with Nakamura Fukusuke as Tsujita's wife, Fukayuki) . Two female character dressed as a warrior looks on) . The banners and standards of approaching troops can be seen in the background, the hillsides framed by pine trees.
Wonderfully expressive figures with great interaction between the characters, and terrific detail in the hairstyles. Includes metallic pigment that has oxidised to a dark tone on the blades of the naginata and spear.
The play, which has not yet been identified, may be a dramatisation of a scene from the Tale of Heike (see below*) or, more likely, from a conflict in the Warring States of the mid-16thCentury:
* Genpei Nunobiki no Taki
The Genji, the Heike and the Nunobiki Waterfalls
Extract from Part III
Koyoshi calls from within that Aoi Gozen is now delivering her child. Kurosuke moves to join his wife but is prevented by Senoo. Koyoshi enters carrying a bundle wrapped in brocade. Kurosuke in anguish asks if it is a boy and when Koyoshi does not answer Senoo tells her to take it to Sanemorii who is charged with the infant's death if it be male. Koyoshi silently obeys. When Sanemorii unfolds the wrapper, he is astounded to find in it a human arm!