BYOBU | The Tale of the Heike - the battles that changed the history of Japan

The Battle of Yashima from the Tale of the Heike

Period : Edo period (1603 -1868)

Date: 17th century

Artist : Tosa school artist

Origin :  Japan

Classification :  Byobu, one of a pair of six-panel folding screens


Dimension:  H 109cm x W 284 cm

Provenance : Private Collection, Holland

Medium : Ink and mineral colours (gofun) , gold leaf, kinsunago (gold flakes)

With two borders of silk brocade, the backside finishing with Karakami paper, two  detailed metal works on the frame.


Price upon request

Available for Sale. Viewing (by visit or online) by appointment.


One of the significant battle scenes of Genpei war(1180-1185), the battle of Yashima from the Tale of the Heike is depicted in immaculate detail of human figures in Yamato-e style by a Tosa school artist, with the ample usage of gold in the background - square gold leaf, the patterns of gold clouds and gold flakes (Kinsunago), separating and linking the different sections, creating the contrast between the details and space. 


In the late Heian period(794-1185), over the imperial dominance, the dramatic conflict began between two clans, Taira (平)and Minamoto (源 ) which led to the Genpei war (源平), with the victory of Minamoto clan. Genpei war is known as one of the most crucial battles in Japanese history, which marked the beginning of the Shogunate, military dictatorship of Japan, lasted over 600 years, from 1185 till 1868 till the Meiji restoration.


The battles of the Genpei war and the fall of the Taira clan were recounted in the Tale of the Heike completed in 1330, the literary masterpiece and one of the best-known works of historical Japanese literature.


The Tale of the Heike has later become the theme for many traditional artistic works. The stories were told in chronicles, traditional plays and songs. Yet, unlike other Japanese medieval literature, The Tale of the Heike was not preserved in “emakimono”, illustrated handscrolls, the many of the artworks are mostly dating from the 16th century, the end of Muromachi period, through the early Edo period, the 17th century.

They are mostly created in pairs of screens (Byobu), by Kano school artists and Tosa school artists, with each screen illustrating one of the battle scenes with a spotlight on influential figures in immaculate details and the majestic power of Samurai.


The Tale of the Heike is one of the most appreciated themes among the collectors and can be seen in the notable museums’ collection in Japan and internationally, such as in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY, British Museum in London.


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"My aim is to bring peace to our everyday life with Art of Japan,

with a touch of love and light." - Azumi