Sunday, February 19, 2012

My Fabulous Yard Sale Find:Samurai Archer on Horseback Print

Yesterday, I found a beautiful and rather well-preserved specimen of Japanese print, featuring a samurai in full armor on horseback, holding an arrow at the ready in his longbow. It appeared to be numbered “11” as if it were number 11 in a series. All other marks were kanji with a smattering of katakana. So I made a long and rather frustrating attempt to decipher the rest of the kanji, thinking my handy Denshi Jisho radical lookup might help me identify the unknown symbols. Boy was I ever wrong! I found some of them, but even the ones I found were often not part of the Joyo Kanji standard list. Obviously, one must be much more learned in this stuff than I am. 
My Mystery Samurai Archer on Horseback Print, 14.5" by 10"

The box in which the print came also held ephemera and photographs from just pre-World War I to about 1950, so I’m guessing the print is either just post WWII or perhaps earlier, especially since I had so much trouble finding the kanji. I realize that pre-WWII kanji would be carried on a list called the “kyujitai” or “original characters,” rather than the shinjitai, or newer system.  (Just to make things amusing, there’s something called the “seijitai” as well, which just means “proper characters” and is synonymous with kyujitai). So what’s correct? Anyway, I got in over my head, and so I’m posting the print in its entirety, along with closeups of the text and stamps. I’m sure there are plenty of folks out there who can make more sense of it than I can. It is possible I'm just missing a stylized font, who knows?
Kanji text at bottom left of print
Stamp and signature to lower right hand of image.

For a few moments, I thought I had found at least a companion piece to this one at this website, which shows a sold scroll print of Minamoto no Yoshiie, who is astride a similarly dressed horse with very similar clothing (but not quite the same). The artist’s stamp is different though, and so it probably isn’t related. That print was estimated to be approximately mid-20th century. I’m guessing this one is too.

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