Japanese Pillar Print (Hashira-e) | The Battle on the Gojo Bridge Benkei/Yoshitsume | Katsukawa Shunzan | Edo Period

Katsukawa Shunzan (active: 1782-1798) created this image of the young Minamoto no Yoshitsune (warrior; literary character, (1159-1189), fighting Musashibo Benkei (warrior, literary character, (1189), on Gojo Bridge.

Katsukawa Shunzan’s early prints were portraits of actors in the style of his master Shunsho (c. 1726-1793). Later in the 1780s his depictions of beautiful women showed the influence of Kiyonaga, and by the 1790s he had also assimilated aspects of Utamaro’s manner. Shunzan was a gifted artist who produced some wonderful detailed work. Shunzan and other ukiyo-e artists frequently explored contrasts between the figures in their print designs.

This is a Hashirakake (narrow scroll for display on pillars of homes). There is some toning, but in generally good state for a pillar print from this period. This print is in black and color ink on paper (black ink portion strong, color portion faded and toned), good impression, and in good condition, (few surface imperfections), for its age. The piece is unsigned, BUT is in the collection of the British Museum in London, and published on page 351 in the book The Japanese Pillar Print Hashira-e by Jacob Pins (1982). Dimensions: 4-3/8” w x 26-3/8” h

NOTE: Pillar Prints, historically, suffer the most wear, particularly fading, and toning, due to the fact that they were hung like miniature scrolls, or pasted on a the central posts of the main room. All Hashira-e were subjected to harsh light and smoke, yet today are highly prized for their themes of myths and legend, historical figures, and narrow size, giving a unique perspective to the genre.

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