Kuniyoshi (1797-1861)

Hara Goemon Mototoki

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Kuniyoshi (1797-1861)
Hara Goemon Mototoki
Biographies of the Loyal Retainers (47 Ronin)
Woodblock Print
c. 1847
13.75" x 9.75"
Ichiyusai Kuniyoshi ga
Very good color and impression, very light wear on corner edges, light stain on left edge


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Ebiya Rinnosuke
Murata and Mera

About the art

Hara Goemon Mototoki was the chief retainer of the Asano family in Kanto. He helped plan the raid with Oboshi. His last poem read: "The moon was shining brightly. Suddenly, heavy showers began with thunder and lightening. After a while, cool wind blew and cleared the sky. The beautiful moon now showed its face again. 

katana mei: Hirohuni, length 2 shaku 9 sun
wakizashi mei: Kunisuke, length 2 shaku
te yari

About the artist

The son of silk dyer, Kuniyoshi Utagawa was born into the Igusa family in Edo. Little is known about his very early years, though he is said to have shown remarkable talent from a young age. Kuniyoshi began his ukiyo-e career as a pupil of Shunei. At age 14 he was accepted to study the art of woodblock printing under Toyokuni I and, in time, would become one of his most successful students. In 1814, he left Toyokuni’s studio to pursue a career as an independent Japanese ukiyo-e artist. Initially, he had little success, selling tatami mats in order to support himself. However, his fortunes changed in 1827 with his dramatic series 108 Heroes of the Suikoden. From that point on, the public hungered for his portrayals of famous samurai and legendary heroes. Kuniyoshi worked in all genres, producing some brilliant landscapes and charming bijin-ga (pictures of beautiful women). He died in the spring of 1861 from complications of a stroke.


In direct contrast to the peaceful views of a scenic Japan provided by Hiroshige and Hokusai, the following decades saw a rise of the fierce, fearsome and fantastical in ukiyo-e. Kuniyoshi welcomed this changing public taste. He had a ravenous imagination and the full scope of his work reveals an aesthetic sensibility capable of assimilating almost any experience. No doubt, however, his particular genius felt most at home in the world of martial glory, where epic battles decided the fate of empires and fierce warriors clashed to the death. Utagawa Kuniyoshi's prints were so popular in his time that he received requests for tattoo designs.

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