Hirosada, Sawamura Kito as Oboshi Yuranoshuke's Wife Oishi

Konishi Hirosada (ca 1810 - 1864) Sawamura Kito II as Oboshi Yuranosuke's Wife Oishi (Oboshi Yuranosuke no tsuma Oishi), 1849. Chuban.

A superb study by the greatest Japanese portraitist of all time, Hirosada. It has been said many times before on these pages how great his work is and how little valued. This print has all of the subtle hallmarks of Hirosada’s delicate and economic art.

The great revenge drama of Japanese theatre - the Kanadehon Chushingura of 1848 - is the stage dramatisation of a real incident that occurred in 1702. Henri Joly’s exhaustive work of 1908, Legend in Japanese Art, gives a very concise explication of the events in entry 755:

CHIUSHINGURA The celebrated story of the FORTY-SEVEN RONINS, also called the revenge of Asano, or The Loyal League, is well known; it has been dramatised, and its episodes are the subject of numerous sets of prints and illustrations of all kinds... The gist of the story is as follows: ASANO TAKUMI KAMI (Yenya in the play) had been appointed to receive the ambassadors from the Emperor to the Shogun. His instructor in court etiquette, KIRA KOTSUKE NO SUKE (MORONAO in the play), so persistently insulted him that he had to draw his sword in the palace. Such an offence was punishable with death, and he was therefore obliged to commit seppuku in April, 1701. His principal retainer and counsellor, Oishi KURANOSUKE, and forty-six of his companions thus becoming ronins, swore to avenge their dead master, and after many troubles succeeded in slaying KOTSUKE xo SUKE, after which they all committed harakiri (1706). Their graves in the cemetery of Sengakuji receive every mark of respect to this day.

As a simple illustration of Chiushingura, one of the ronins, Sadakuro, murderer of Yoichibei, is commonly depicted hiding his face with a large dilapidated umbrella.

Ronins adopting as their special religious creed certain Buddhistic tenets derived from the Nichiren teachings were, under the Tokugawa rule, considered almost above the law, and immune against arrest. In consequence, they all became adepts of this peculiar sect. A conspicuous figure, both in the Chiushingura and on less recognisable scenes, is the ronin beggar, Komuso. playing the flute, with a high upturned basket in lieu of headgear, two holes provided in the front allowing him full view of his surroundings without his identity being disclosed. A similar headgear was also worn by actors in ancient days.

Hirosada depicts the wife of the above mentioned, ‘Oishi Kuranosuke’, in real life, as well as the fictional, stage role she became. Oishi was the model of the loyal samurai’s wife. She provided succour and alibis for her husband and on receipt of news of his suicide, she also took her own life.

A great print, subtle and yet dark. Colour, condition and impression are all fine.

18 x 25 cm.