Battles of Ichi-no-tani and Yashima, from the Tale of the Heike
A pair of six-fold screens
"Tsuzuri Project" (Official Title: Cultural Heritage Inheritance Project)
The British Museum
Edo period, 17th century
Collection Ref. No.
The Tale of the Heike recounts the glory and fall of the Taira clan, who seized power in the late Heian period, around the 12th century. It was compiled during the Kamakura period (1192–1333), and the story became widely known across the country through storytelling by itinerant priests who recited the story while accompanying themselves on the lute. A number of folding screens on the theme of The Tale of the Heike were created between the 16th and mid-17th century, from the late Muromachi to the early Edo period in Japan. The original screen paintings of these high-resolution facsimiles were depicted in the first half of the 17th century. Although the artist is unknown, the vigorous composition and detailed depictions suggest the pair to be the work of a prominent painter.
When viewed as a whole, each screen appears to depict a single scene of the respective battle. However, a closer inspection reveals that each screen contains multiple scenes from different time frames. The right-hand screen depicts twenty-one scenes from the ninth chapter of the tale, “The Battle of Ichi-no-tani,” while the other screen on the left shows eight scenes from the eleventh chapter, ”The Battle of Yashima.”