Kunisada, Stories of the Faithful Samurai - Arashi Hinasuke VII as Yada Gorozaemon Suketake

Utagawa Kunisada/Toyokuni III (1786-1865) Stories of the Faithful Samurai: Arashi Hinasuke VII as Yada Gorozaemon Suketake (The Syllable Mo) 1864. Oban.

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This fine print is strictly speaking an actor portrait, but the series is only nominally about actors. The print has three subjects: the actor Arashi Hinasuke VII, the syllable Mo from the Kana alphabet, and the story of the 47 Ronin. Aside from the outstanding designs, the series is notable because, in spite of an existing ban on artists using real historical names for personalities living before 1572, all ronin are given their original names and not the aliases used for more than 150 years in prints and other popular literature. The heroes are ordered by the letters of the Kana alphabet (the syllabic Japanese writing system where each character corresponds to an individual sound), and the syllable is illustrated in the yellow rhombus at the top of the print.

The print is signed nanajukyu sai Toyokuni hitsu (Drawn by Toyokuni 79 years old) as if to emphasise his venerable age and status. This piece illustrates the characters from the Story of the Faithful Samurai - the 47 Ronin who revenged themselves on their master’s proxy assassin. In 1702 Lord Asano of Ako was provoked by Kira Kozukensuke into drawing his sword in the shogun's palace, for which he was forced to take his own life. Forty-seven of his retainers became Ronin - samurai without masters. They vowed revenge on their leader and attacked Kira's palace the following year, decapitating him and carrying his head to lay on Asano's grave. They in turn took their own lives.

The feel of the series is borrowed from Kuniyoshi’s pioneering series of the same name of 1847 but also forms the basis for Kunichika’s series of actor portraits thirty years later. Like Kuniyoshi, Kunisada pictures the Ronin engaged in the assault on Hangan’s palace in 1702. A fine piece beautifully printed, powerful, dynamic and bursting with energy. Fine colour and impression with embossing to the robes. The condition is fine.

Signed nanajukyu sai Toyokuni hitsu, published by Daikokuya Kinzaburo.

25cm x 36cm.