The White Dragon Ascends to Heaven at the Koromo River during the Battle of Takadachi in the Third Year of the Bunji Era (1187)

Artist: Utagawa Yoshitsuya 歌川芳艶 (fl. 1822-1826)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 1857, 11th month
Woodblock print; ink and color on paper
H x W (right): 35 x 24.3 cm (13 3/4 x 9 9/16 in)
Credit Line
The Anne van Biema Collection
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Woodblock print

Anne van Biema collection, battle, dragon, Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, river, ukiyo-e
Provenance research underway.

A band of warriors, each identified by a name in a red label, gazes in awe at a white dragon rising from the Koromo River in the midst of a lightning storm. Representations in warrior prints of historical subjects like this one were influenced by the compositions and visual devices used in kabuki theatrical performances. The conventions were also used in contemporary battle prints of the Meiji era. At the center of this image stands the great warrior-monk Benkei, who holds a staff with a red banner emblazoned with the Wheel of the Buddhist Law. Benkei was the devoted retainer of the young Minamoto no Yoshitsune, who stands in full battle armor beneath the pine tree at right. The incident represented here is one of many legends that developed after Yoshitsune's death. The Koromo River in present-day Iwate Prefecture was the site of Yoshitsune's residence after his flight in 1187 to the north to escape from his half brother, Yoritomo. There, Yoshitsune established his last stronghold, where he ultimately was forced to kill his wife, his daughter, and himself in 1189.

Published References
  • Ann Yonemura, et al. Masterful Illusions: Japanese Prints from the Anne van Biema Collection. Seattle and Washington. cat. 95, pp. 246-247.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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