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These prints (see also 16.1168) 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.
Given to the John Herron Art Institute, Indianapolis, Indiana, now the Indianapolis Museum of Art, in 1945.