Yoshitaki, Kanadehon Chushingura Act VII - Okaru

Utagawa Yoshitaki (ca 1841 - 1899) Okaru (played by Ichikawa Sadanji) in the Kanadehon Chushingura Act VII: Paper and the Moon, 1870. Three Chuban Sheets.

This is a very rare and (surprisingly) complete polyptych from the famous Osaka School artist Yoshitaki. These L-shaped prints are unusual and it is common for the topmost and more vulnerable sheet to be missing. They were originally designed to go in an album, the third upper sheet intended to open upwards.

The print depicts act VII from the Kanadehon Chushingura. The Chushingura is the literary and theatrical adaptation of the outstanding (and essentially true) story of honour, revenge and sacrifice which became the standard for Japanese moral certainty in the late Edo period. The dramas retell the straightforward story of the death of Enya Hangan, who in 1701 was forced to draw his sword in the Shogun’s palace by the goading  of the courtier Moronao. Hangan is obliged to commit suicide for the offence and his retainers become Ronin, leaderless samurai. They vow revenge and the play revolves around their plotting and preparation, culminating in the storming of Moronao’s house and his eventual assassination.

In this print the leader of the 47 Ronin, Yuranosuke is staying at the Ichiriki Geisha House. To disguise his intentions, he pretends to lead a dissolute life and is visited by one of Moronao’s spies, Kudayu. At night, Yuranosuke leaves the house to read a secret letter from his co-conspirators, he is spied upon by Kudayo and a Geisha, Okaru. Okaru (played by Ichikawa Sadanji) is pictured on the balcony, and Kudayo (played by Nakamura Komanosuke) is seen in the garden. Yuranosuke is played by Onoe Tamizo. In the play, Okaru is about to be killed for her spying but ends up stabbing Kudayo to show her loyalty to the plotters and is spared.

This is a fine and unusual print and marvellously intact. The impression, the colour and the condition are all fine with burnishing to some areas.

38cm x 49cm (irregular).