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The Soga Brothers Cutting Down Ten [Retainers of Kudō Suketsune] (Soga jūban kiri no zu)

Utagawa Kunisada (Japanese, 1786-1864)


曽我十番切之図

These prints (see also 45.38) depict a scene from an incident that has been more frequently dramatized in Japan than any other. In 1175 Kudō Suketsune arranged the murder of his cousin Sukemichi over a land dispute. Sukemichi’s two infant sons, Jūrō (Sukenari) and Gorō (Tokimune), grew up harboring the desire to avenge their father’s death. Eighteen years later they did so. The shogun, Minamoto Yoritomo, invited Kudō to a grand hunting excursion. Grabbing the opportunity, the two brothers slipped undetected into Kudō’s tent. They woke Kudō, announced themselves, and then dispatched him as he reached for his sword. In the ensuing fight with Kudō’s retainers, Jūrō was killed and Gorō was taken alive. Although Kudō was a favorite of the shogun, Yoritomo admired the brothers’ courageous spirit and determination and wanted to pardon Gorō. But Kudō’s son protested, and Gorō was executed. In executing these two prints, the printer altered the palettes to suggest different lighting effects.

source unknown; joined the collection of the John Herron Art Institute, now the Indianapolis Museum of Art, in 1916

Object Information

artist
Utagawa Kunisada (Japanese, 1786-1864)
period
Edo
creation date
about 1832
materials
color woodblock print
dimensions
14 x 9-3/4 in. (image, trimmed at right and bottom margins)
mark descriptions
Signed by artist: K?ch?r? Kunisada ga
Artist's seal (partially unread): _____ Goto _____
Publisher's mark: Yamaguchi-ya T?bei (Kink?d?)
Censor's seal, circular kiwame
accession number
16.1168
credit line
unknown
copyright
Public Domain
collection
Asian Art
colors