Act V (Godanme), from the series The Storehouse of Loyal Retainers, a Primer from the Kabuki play 'Kanadehon Chûshingura'
This woodblock print depicts a scene in traditional '47 Ronin' style, which is from Act V and described in detail below. The battle takes place on a hillside, where cane/straw has been bundled for drying, and a partially crafted basket lies on the ground. This is an early print, likely c1850s, and it is beautifully double-matted and framed. It bears Kunisada's cipher, a Kiwami Censor Seal and its title box, and was published by Ezakiya Kichibei (Tenjudô). The print shows some evidence of its age, but presents very handsomely. The sight size is 14.25" x 10", and its frame measures 19.75" x 15.5". P7543 $295.00
Act V: Teppô Watashi, Futatsudama
The Musket Scene, Two Bullets
Dedicated summaries: "Teppô Watashi" and "Futatsudama"
One dark and rainy night Kanpei is out hunting. He runs into one of Hangan's retainers (AKA, one of Hangan's 47 Ronin samurai) on a country road and expresses his desire to join their cause. Unsure of Kanpei's trustworthiness, the retainer reveals no details of their plot, but says they are raising funds. Kanpei realizes it is to finance the vendetta and asks to contribute, although he has no ready cash and is dependent on Okaru's parents.
To provide funds for Kanpei, although he knows nothing about it, Okaru has agreed to be sold as a geisha to a Gion pleasure house in Kyôto. Her father has just finalized the deal and is returning late at night with 50 ryo (the other 50 to be paid on delivery). But as he takes a rest, a robber stabs him to death and steals the money. Suddenly a wild boar rushes by, and shots ring out, but they hit the robber not the boar. Kanpei is horrified when in the pitch dark he finds he has killed a human not an animal, but when he finds the purse on the corpse, his desire to restore his honor prevails, and he rushes off to give the money to the vendetta league.
THE STORY OF THE 47 RONIN - a band of samurai who became masterless after the enforced seppuku (ritual suicide) of their daimyo, Asano Takumi-no-Kami Naganori - is a legend which stems from a true historical episode of deadly revenge during the period 1701-1703. This tale remains one of the most enduring myths in Japanese culture as an exemplar of bushido, the samurai code of honour, which demands loyalty and glorifies vengeance and death. The story of the 47 ronin became widely popularized in Japan through the stage play Kanadehon Chûshingura ("Treasury Of Loyal Retainers”), written by Chikamatsu Monzaemo and Takeda Izumo in 1748. As the popularity of woodblock prints (ukiyo-e) increased in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Chûshingura became a favoured subject for many of the art-form's leading practitioners, including Utamaro, Toyokuni I, Hokusai, Hiroshige, Kuniyasu, and a young up-and-coming artist named Gototei (later Utagawa) Kunisada. Kunisada returned to the subject of the 47 ronin in 1864, at the age of seventy-nine, with a new series of 48 prints (including an additional "ghost samurai”). Despite this advanced age, the images he produced rank amongst the finest of his career, and this 47 Ronin stands near the pinnacle of his achievements. Kunisada's 47 Ronin remains one of the greatest (but rarely celebrated) ukiyo-e series of the late Edo period.
top of page
bottom of page