musha-e 武者絵
KEY WORD : art history / paintings
1 A category of *ukiyo-e 浮世絵 prints that depicted battle scenes and heroic armored warriors. Broadly includes illustrated novels haishi-e 稗史絵, historical paintings rekishiga 歴史画, and war/battle scenes sensou-e 戦争絵.

2 A popular subject of illustrated books *yomihon 読本. Warriors engaged in battles were a popular part of *kabuki 歌舞伎 and this probably had some influence on musha-e, but many of the subjects for the prints were taken from classic illustrated military chronicles such as HEIKE MONOGATARI 平家物語 (The Tale of The Heike), GENPEI SEISUIKI 源平盛衰記 (The Rise and Fall of The Genji and The Heike) and TAIHEIKI 太平記. Among the early pioneers of musha-e were Isoda Koryuusai 磯田湖龍斎 (fl. c, 1764-88) and members of the Katsukawa school *Katsukawaha 勝川派. In the 19c the publication of warrior and battle prints may have been stimulated by a sense of urgency that arose from foreign intrusions and the approaching demise of the Tokugawa 徳川 shogunate. Utagawa Kuniyoshi 歌川国芳 (1797-1861) added great drama to this genre, showing cut-off heads flying through the air and blood spurting from severed limbs. His 1827 set of prints portraying five celebrated heroes from the Chinese novel Shui Hu Chuan (Jp: SUIKODEN 水滸伝) was extremely popular among the Edo populace and earned him the name of Musha-e no Kuniyoshi 武者絵の国芳 (Kuniyoshi of the Warrior Prints). In the late 19c Tsukioka Yoshitoshi 月岡芳年 (1839-92) continued Kuniyoshi's sensationalistic style. When historical paintings rekishiga became popular in the 19c they were often portrayed by *yamato-e やまと絵 style artists as Kobori Tomoto 小堀鞆音 (1864-1931) and Matsumoto Fuuko 松本楓湖 (1840-1923) who specialized in historical and battle subjects. Matsuoka Eikyuu 松岡映丘 (1881-1938) also produced historical subjects in a modern version of the yamato-e style. In general, musha-e are valuable sources of information regarding old military practices, armor, history, and war heroes.


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