• Arts of the Samurai  auction at Christies

    Sale 2378

    Arts of the Samurai

    23 October 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 14

    Hasegawa School (Early 17th Century)

    The first man across the Uji River, from Tale of the Heike

    Price Realised  


    Hasegawa School (Early 17th Century)
    The first man across the Uji River, from Tale of the Heike
    Pair of six-panel screens; ink, color, gold and gold leaf on paper
    60 5/8 x 140¼in. (154 x 356cm.) each (2)

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    In the Genpei wars between the Minamoto (Genji) and Taira (Heike) clans in the 1180s, the planks of the Uji Bridge were torn up to defend the nearby Byodoin Temple. It is early spring, the ice and snow from nearby mountains have melted and the river is in full flow. White waves race downstream and there are eddies the size of whirlpools. Yoshitsune, the Minamoto commander, turns to his men for advice, asking whether they should wait for the river to subside.

    Just then, two warriors galloped into sight from the tip of Tachibana-no-kojima northeast of the Byodoin. One was Kajiwara Genda Kagesue; the other was Sasaki Shiro Takatsuna. Although neither had let his intentions show, each had made a secret resolve to be the first man across the river.

    Takatsuna hailed Kagesue, who was about thirty-five feet ahead of him. "This is the biggest river I the west. Your saddle girth looks loose; tighten it up!"

    Kagesue must have feared that the girth did indeed require tightening. He stiffened his legs in the stirrups to hold them away from Surusumi's belly, tossed the reins over the horse's mane, undid the girth, and tightened it. Meanwhile, Takatsuna galloped past him into the river. Kagesue followed, perhaps feeling that he had been tricked.

    "Look out, Sasaki," Kagesue cried. "Don't slip up just because you want to be a hero. There must be ropes on the bottom."

    Takatsuna drew his sword, cut the ropes one after another as they touched his mount's legs, rode straight across the swift Uji River on Ikezuki, the best horse in the world, and ascended the opposite bank. Kagesue's mount, Surusumi, landed far downstream, forced into a slanting course at the halfway point. (The Tale of the Heike, trans. with an introduction by Helen Craig McCullough [Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988], p. 287.)

    Saleroom Notice

    The property title page in the catalogue should read Lot 14 instead of Lot 15.