Protecting his master, Tsugunobu is felled by Noritsune’s arrow, 5/13/1898
Ink on Paper
14 1/8 in. x 28 5/16 in. (35.88 cm x 71.91 cm)
Colored ink and mica on paper.
On the beach of Yashima, an island off Shikoku, Minamoto Yoshitsune's forces did battle with the Taira on 24 March 1185. When the governor of Noto Province, Taira no Noritsune (1160-1185), raised his bow to shoot Yoshitsune, the brothers Sato Tsuginobu (1158-1185) and Tadanobu (1161-1186) rode between them to protect Yoshitsune. Tsuginobu was shot instead and tumbled from his horse. Noritsune's servant Kikuo ran forward to behead the fallen warrior, but Tadanobu was able to fire an arrow into the 18 year old boy. Noritsune rescued Kikuo and was overwhelmed with grief as the boy died in his arms. The wounded Sato Tsugunobu was carried to Yoshitsune, and declared with his last breath, "The only thing I regret is that I shall not live to see you flourish. Except for this, I have no desires. It is the fate of a man of bow and sword to fall by the shaft of an enemy. I am content with this death, for they will say in the days to come that Tsuginobu died in place of his master at the battle on the beach of Yashima in Sanuki Province during the war between the Genji and the Heike. This is a great honor for a warrior, and it is something that I will carry with me on the shaded path to the world beyond."
While the anguish these warriors would experience at the deaths of their comrades is well known from the Heike monogatari, Chikanobu presents the dramatic moment of battle when loyalty to one's master (Kikuo risking his life to get a trophy head for Noritsune) is contrasted to sibling loyalty (Tadanobu defending his wounded brother). While the artist's composition is fairly simple, the costume patterns are extremely complex and richly colored. The beach has been dusted with crushed mica to give sparkle to the sand as one holds the print.
For more information, please refer to the Chikanobu exhibition catalogue.
Purchased by Bruce Coats from Arts and Designs of Japan in San Francisco in August 2004, using Aoki funds.
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