This print from Shigenobu (1787-1833)’s excellent ‘Willow Storm‘-series (late 1820s) depicts the pairing of general Minamoto Yoshitsune, who led the Minamoto forces during the Battle of Dannoura against the Taira clan, and Taira Tokuko, who was the daughter of Taira Kiyomori. The latter was a consort of Emperor Takakura and mother of Emperor Antoku.
According to a popular legend, Tokuko had thrown herself into the sea while holding the young emperor Antoku in her arms. She was rescued by the Minamoto forces and enticed by Yoshitsune.
One of the many senryu comic poems of the time that was based on this theme goes “Yoshitsune saw his mother raped so he did the same to Kiyomori’s daughter”.
The late shunga expert Hayashi Yoshikazu comments the following on the aesthetics of this piece: “…This print on a classical theme, is a mediocre example of the Utagawa style, and provides little indication of the talents of Shigenobu. The captions are written in narrow script, and the sea battle can be glimpsed through the window. Unfortunately, the print has been damages and darkened.”
Despite Yoshikazu’s aesthetic concerns this first plate of this series is probably the most difficult to detect!
Click HERE for more exciting examples of the ‘Willow Storm‘-series!
Source: Vol.4 of ‘Teihon ukiyo-e shunga meihin shusei (The Complete Ukiyo-e Shunga), 1997′ by Hayashi Yoshikazu