A fine and large gilt-bronze figural group of Benkei and two assailants By Miyao Eisuke of Yokohama, Meiji Period
Lot 581*
A fine and large gilt-bronze figural group of Benkei and two assailants
By Miyao Eisuke of Yokohama, Meiji Period
Sold for £28,750 (US$ 48,952) inc. premium
Auction Details
A fine and large gilt-bronze figural group of Benkei and two assailants By Miyao Eisuke of Yokohama, Meiji Period A fine and large gilt-bronze figural group of Benkei and two assailants By Miyao Eisuke of Yokohama, Meiji Period
Lot Details
A fine and large gilt-bronze figural group of Benkei and two assailants
By Miyao Eisuke of Yokohama, Meiji Period
He stands, in the attire of a Yamabushi warrior priest, with one foot pressing down a smaller warrior, and holding aloft another who holds a circular shallow bowl with both hands, their robes decorated in gilt metal with various mon and medallions among dragons and ho-o birds amid swirling clouds, signed on a rectangular panel Miyao zo; affixed to a rectangular four-footed wood stand, lacquered in gold takamakie around the sides with running dragons and scrolling foliage. 65.5cm (25¾in) high incl. stand.

Footnotes

  • 銅置物 弁慶と敵兵 宮尾栄助作 明治時代

    This powerfully modelled group by Miyao depicts a celebrated incident from the final, tragic, moments of the story of Yoshitsune (1159-1189), the youthful hero of the Minamoto clan who, after vanquishing the Taira clan at the battles of Ichinotani, Yashima and Dannoura in 1185, was hounded into exile and death by his jealous half-brother, shogun Yoritomo. Fleeing from what has been described as 'the greatest manhunt in the history of Japan,' Yoshitsune and his loyal band of followers travel through the central and eastern provinces and eventually reach the remote northeastern part of Japan disguised as a band of monks. Sheltered by Hidehira, ancient lord of a regional branch of the courtly Fujiwara clan, Yoshitsune takes a background role, leaving it to his lifelong loyal retainer the warrior-monk Benkei, seen here, to assume responsibility for the last stand before their inevitable defeat at the battle of the Koromo River, where their tiny band of ten men is overwhelmed by an attacking army of around thirty thousand. According to the Gikeiki chronicle, as translated by Ivan Morris, Yoshitsune says it is impossible for him to 'go outside and risk facing unworthy enemies,' so Benkei 'charges the enemy again and again like one possessed, slaughtering them by the dozens, until no one dares to approach him.'

    An incident from this phase of the narrative is also depicted in a painting of about the same date as this bronze by an unrecorded artist named Kikusei, who shows us a brightly painted Benkei simultaneously disposing of three of his enemies, while Yoshitsune and his followers are dimly depicted in ink wash, watching from a distant mountain pass. Apart from the dramatic interest of the story, the tale of Benkei and Yoshitsune's resistance to shogun Yoritomo, with its implication of loyalty to the emperor, resonated with the Meiji ideology of reverence for the descendants of the Sun-Goddess Amaterasu.

    Ivan Morris, The Nobility of Failure: Tragic Heroes in the History of Japan, Secker & Warburg, London, 1975, pp.88-99.
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