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Tale of the Soga Brothers, approx. 1700-1868

Tale of the Soga Brothers

Tale of the Soga Brothers, approx. 1700-1868. Japan. Ink and colors on paper with gold leaf. The Avery Brundage Collection, B60D6.

This screen represents episodes from the story of the Soga brothers, Juro and Goro. Dating from the Kamakura period (1185–1333), this well-known historical tale relates how the brothers avenged their father’ s death— killing his enemy during the shogun’s grand-scale hunting excursion at the foot of Mount Fuji.

According to the story, in 1176 the Sogas’ father was killed by Suketune, a favorite vassal of the shogun in a land ownership dispute. Having survived many years of hardship, the two brothers, now young men, determined to avenge the murder of their father. Hearing that Suketune would be among the members of the shogun’ s hunting excursion, the brothers waited for the hunting party to arrive at their destination.

This screen, the left of a pair, depicts the shogun’s camp, where the brothers successfully carried out their revenge. Juro, the elder brother, was killed in the fight, however, and Goro was captured and taken to the shogun’s court, as seen in the lower left, and later executed. The right screen of this pair (not shown) depicts the hunting excursion itself.

Because the brothers’ successful mission was followed by a tragic end, the story touched people’s hearts. Many versions of this historical tale were written, and the brothers were popular subjects in Japanese painting.

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