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Lot 51: Hirokage Utagawa (active c. 1855-1865) Great Battle between Vegetables and Fish Troops, 19th Century Japanese Woodblock Print

JG Auction

November 13, 2015
London, United Kingdom

More About this Item


The unique and bizarre print 'Great Battle between Vegetables and Fish Troops' by Utagawa Hirokage. Here we see an army of various vegetables lead by General Pumpkin trying the push the daemonic fish-men forces back into the sea. Hirokage was a student of the great Landscape artist Hiroshige, and while most of his prints were landscape and city scenes in the traditional Hiroshige style. However in 1859 The Great Battle of the Vegetables and the Fish was published which was a notable break both for its style and subject matter. More interestingly, the print was likely commissioned as part of a public educational campaign – in 1858 and year before the print was published, a cholera epidemic broke out in Japan. At the time it was thought cholera was spread by consuming contaminated seafood, so it would appear that this print was used as a propaganda tool to discourage people from eating seafood by daemonising them, and making people prefer to eat vegetables which were considered safe to eat. This was common practice during the Edo period for Ukiyo-e prints to be used in this manner for spreading information to the public, as they were relatively quick and easy to produce and were considered the art for the common man.

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25.2 x 36 cm, 25.3 x 36.3 cm, 25.3 x 36.2 cm

Artist or Maker

Hirokage Utagawa (active c. 1855-1865)


Woodblock Print

Condition Report

Colour slightly faded,

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Japanese Ukiyo-e Prints & Tsuba

JG Auction
November 13, 2015, 2:30 PM GMT

London, United Kingdom