Hiroshige, Chushingura Act 10

Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) Chushingura Act 10, 1836. Oban yokoy-e.

The story of the 47 Ronin still exerts a powerful hold on the imagination of the Japanese and even artists such as Hiroshige, not known for warrior prints, made at least one series commemorating the event. Basil Stewart in his important Guide to Japanese Prints, 1921 writes:

This Chushingura set is not at all common, especially the extra scenes to Act XI, and it is rarely found in really fine impressions, with the result that it usually conveys a somewhat poor impression of Hiroshige's powers as an artist... As an example of the estimation in which this particular Chushingura series is held by collectors, a complete set of the sixteen scenes, in only moderate condition, changed hands at auction early last year (1920) for nearly forty pounds, a sum which, in the opinion of the writer, seemed high considering its state.

This very fine series of oban prints echoes others in the tradition although Hiroshige’s interpretation is especially delicate. Pictured here is act X: the Loyal Retainers are smuggling the leader of the conspiracy, Yuranosuke, into Gihei’s house to test his loyalty. Two of the nine Ronin are carrying the basket, Gihei’s wife is seen in the background and there are amusing vignettes of street dogs and peasants at night. This series is one of the best known illustrations of the subject. The border is decorated with the double Tomo-ye crest of Yuranosuke; often prints from this series have this decoration trimmed off.

A fine print from a fine impression, the colour is exceptional, not trimmed to image, border intact. There are minor marks and floors, light creasing. Overall in a good state.

Published by Senichi.