Japanese - The Battle of the River Uji, late 17th century


The Battle of the River Uji, late 17th century

Eight-panel screen; color and gold on paper, 116 x 376 cm (45 11/16 x 148 1/16 in.)


Object details

Accession number



Purchased by Isabella Stewart Gardner from the Japanese art dealer Bunkio Matsuki (1867-1940) at Copley Hall, Boston on 20 February 1902, lot 407. (as by Tosa Mitsunobu)


Signed (lower right): Kano Hogen Motonobu [1476-1559]
Seal: Motonobu


Gilbert Wendel Longstreet and Morris Carter. General Catalogue (Boston, 1935), p. 193.
“Notes, Records, Comments.” Gardner Museum Calendar of Events 8, no. 16 (20 Dec. 1964), p. 2.
Yasuko Horioka. "Japanese Screens-II." Fenway Court (Apr. 1969), pp. 52-56 no. 3.
Yasuko Horioka et al. Oriental and Islamic Art: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1975), pp. 62-64, no. 26, ill.
Alan Chong and Noriko Murai. Journeys East: Isabella Stewart Gardner and Asia. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 2009), pp. 54-55 fig. 3

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The battle of the River Uji is a famous battle that occurred just outside Kyoto, Japan, in 1182. Two rival warriors, Kajiwara Kagesuye and Sasaki Takatsuna, raced to see who would be the first to cross the River Uji and meet the enemy.  Sasaki won by tricking his competitor. A few yards behind as they approached the river, he called to Kajiwara, “Your saddle girth is loose! Don’t fall and be the laughing stock of the enemy.”  Kajiwara, seen on the left, looks down just before Sasaki dashes into the water triumphantly. 

Isabella purchased this screen from Japanese art dealer Bunkio Matsuki at Copley Hall in Boston in 1902 when she was first installing the museum’s galleries.