Toyokuni I, Onoe Eizaburo as Ono Sadakuro in The Chushingura

Utagawa Toyokuni I (1769 -1825) Chushingura, 1808. Oban.

This fine print from 1808, shows Onoe Eizaburo in the role of Ono Sadakuro from the great revenge play of kabuki theatre, The Kanadehon Chushingura. This print does not illustrate one of the famed 47 Ronin, but a minor character in the story, a robber and rogue named Ono Sadakuro from the little-performed Act V. Following his master’s death the samurai Hayano Kenpei follows the life of a hunter until one day he kills Sadakuro who has himself just murdered an old man called Yoichibei for a striped pouch of money. Kenpei later commits suicide mistakenly thinking he has killed his own father-in-law.

This a very fine print indeed; the expression and the attitude of the figure are beautifully realised. Toyokuni represents the thief Sadakuro lazily leaning against a tree examining the money he has stolen from the old man, one of his swords arrogantly thrust into the ground in front of him. The print is from 1808 when Toyokuni was at the height of his creativity, the colours remain unfaded and the impression is extremely good with very little damage except for some rubbing to the lower left corner.

Signed: Toyokuni ga. Published by Mikawa with Kiwame (censor) seal and date stamp 5th month, Dragon (1808).