In 1836 The Stirrups of Musashi was published as the first volume of a quadrilogy by Hokusai devoted to stories of heroes and warriors. It was followed by the second volume collecting drawings made between 1836-1857, published under the title Book of Chinese and Japanese Fighters.

The rare volume presents the protagonists of legendary stories and terrifying monsters with a dynamism, expertise of details and harmonies that ranks the work among the excellence of the artist’s most beautiful and qualitatively accurate volumes. The author emphasized to the publisher how the work was more important and refined than his other works.

It is also the sum of the studies by which the artist applied all the geometric constructive rules to his works, whose images meticulously coincided with invisible circles and diagonals.

The transformation of the drawings into woodcut prints was for Hokusai a most delicate stage. His long-standing practice as an engraver taught him how inexperience, hurry and lack of meticulousness in carving or the desire to leave his own personalized mark could ruin the study of the original drawing that was the result of days and days of work.

We know that he also personally supervised the engraving and printing stages of the works, so that his thoughtful strokes would not be distorted. He was even willing to forego part of the payment, so that the work would be entrusted to artisans he trusted such as engraver Tomekichi Egawa, because, compared to others on the works, the lines of the bodies and some of the subjects were particularly difficult to carve and would have seriously challenged even decent carvers

Taken from Hokusai’s The Secret of the Wave – Skira publishing, 2022