Comments - In 940, the rebel Taira Masakado declared himself the “new Taira Emperor” in a challenge to the child emperor Suzaku (923-52). After attacking and seizing the government headquarters of several provinces, Masakado’s forces were quickly defeated and he was killed. The emperor then sent Oya Taro Mitsukuni, one of Masakado’s chief retainers, to Masakado’s ruined Soma Palace to hunt down the rebel's conspirators.
Masakado's daughter, Princess Takiyasha, lived in the deserted mansion, where she practiced sorcery. The palace was said to be haunted by her father's dead soldiers, whom she could summon at will to assume any shape she wanted to fight off enemies. In this incredible Kuniyoshi triptych, the princess reads an incantation from a scroll, summoning a horrific, leering spirit in the form of a skeleton to drive off Mitsukuni. The enormous apparition looms over the figures, pushing aside the tattered reed blinds with its bony fingers. Mitsukuni remains undeterred, glaring defiantly up at the specter as he strikes an enemy with the back of his cased sword while pinning the foe's own weapon to the rotting floorboards.
In the cartouche at upper left, the text reads, "At the old palace of Soma, Takiyasha, the daughter of Masakado, gathered together her allies through witchcraft. Oya Taro Mitsukuni went there to test the demons and eventually destroyed her."
Provenance - This reprint is the work of the Japanese woodblock print artist Tachihara Kurainuki, who dedicated himself to carrying on the traditional methods and materials of ukiyo-e. Self-taught, he studied the original paper, pigments, and printing methods used by Edo era masters, using them to produce his own original works as well as a limited number of reprints of famous ukiyo-e designs, including a small number of Kuniyoshi masterwork triptych designs. These designs include the "Skeleton Specter" and "Oniwakamaru and the Giant Carp." As a single artist with a small studio, his production of these prints was very limited. Neither of these designs is seen in the market anymore. These triptychs are considered so precious, that there is a dealer in Kyoto who displays the "Skeleton Specter," but will not sell it. Born in 1951, Tachihara died of a sudden illness on July 31, 2015, at the age of 64. We acquired this extremely rare triptych directly from the estate of the printer. Tachihara was the subject of a recent retrospective exhibition at the Hagi Uragami Museum in Yamaguchi Prefecture (see example of the exhibition poster below), recognizing his incredible skill and artistry, and honoring his commitment to carrying on this classic Japanese art form.
This reprint - This fantastic triptych is one of the supreme ukiyo-e designs of all time and arguably Kuniyoshi’s greatest masterwork. It is a fantastic depiction of warrior and supernatural imagery, and a testament to Kuniyoshi’s skill at capturing a historic tale in a vivid woodblock print image.
The Edo era original is virtually non-existent in the market. It rarely comes up for sale at any price. Reprints are also very rare. This is very likely the only opportunity you will ever have to purchase this masterwork design. The reprint we are offering is in beautiful condition with rich color, crisp line work, and fine bokashi shading. Don't miss this amazing opportunity to acquire this outstanding Kuniyoshi image.
Artist - Kuniyoshi (1797 - 1861)
Image Size - 14 3/4" x 30 1/8" + margins as shown
Condition - This print with excellent color and detail as shown. Three separate panels. Remnant of mounting tape on reverse at one corner. A few small tears at edges, repaired. Please see photos for details. Nice overall.