This scroll depicts events of the Heiji Civil War, which began in 1159 (Heiji 1) in the late Heian period (794–1192). This conflict between the forces of Taira no Kiyomori and Minamoto no Yoshitomo developed from a struggle for political power between Fujiwara no Michinori (Shinzei) and Fujiwara no Nobuyori.
Initially this scroll was part of a set, of which only three scrolls and around a dozen fragments remain. The two other extant scrolls are the Night Attack on the Sanjo Palace (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) and the Scroll of Shinzei (Seikado Bunko Art Museum). The scroll displayed here shows in four scenes Emperor Nijo, who was being confined by the Minamoto family, escaping the Imperial Palace disguised as a lady and being taken to Kiyomori’s residence in Rokuhara.
The pictures feature people with rich expressions, structures with uniformly straight lines, and soldiers in various groupings, including diamond-shaped formations. The incredible artistic skill displayed throughout the scroll indicates its creation by the best artists of the time.
In the written narrative, wavelike characters are a recurring aspect. This characteristic “shaking hand” calligraphy is thought to be that of Guzein Noriie (1194–1255) in his later years, which suggests the scroll was produced around the middle of the 13th century.