Hirosada, Nakamura Utaemon IV as Moronao

Konishi Hirosada (ca 1810 - 1864) Nakamura Utaemon IV as Moronao in A Writing Manuel for the Loyal Retainers, 1851. Deluxe Chuban Triptych.

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A quite fantastic (and surprisingly western) composition by Hirosada and a surprising and completely original reimagining of the conventional story of The Chushingura - the 47 Ronin. The story (if it needs retelling) is that the wicked courtier, Moronao - seen here reeling backwards in the right hand sheet - instructs visiting lords in the etiquette of meeting the Shogun. In return he expects large bribes. A principled Daimyo (Lord Enya), refuses to pay the bribe and is thence taunted repeatedly by the cowardly Moronao. Eventually, goaded into drawing his sword, Enya thereby forfeits his own life by breaking an inflexible Palace rule. After his execution his forty-seven retainers forfeit their own lives in turn and take revenge on the cowering official.

Here, in a stunning composition… one of Hirosada’s best pieces... Lord Enya is being corralled behind folding screens by other noblemen; Moronao is reeling in shock on the right and Enya’s sword is left quivering in the ground in front of him.

It is a wonderful study in drama and movement, that great wave of energy rushing left and the hapless tea master in the centre dividing the action.

Colour and impression are all fine, but as can be seen by the photographs, the condition of the print at the edges is ragged. This is reflected in the price. To be honest, the quality of the work outweighs its condition… a great Japanese print.