Hiroshige, Filial Piety and Revenge - Tamiya Botaro

Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) Filial Piety and Revenge: Tamiya Botaro Pulling on His Nanny Otsuji’s Kimono Sleeve, 1844. Oban.

This print is from a very good series indeed by the landscape artist Hiroshige, and shows a scene from a story of historic revenge, vendetta, and inter-generational hatred which was a popular subject at this time in Japan.

The story is derived from the kabuki drama, A Child's Revenge - the title belies the grimness of the events. A true story, it is based on a vendetta carried out by a youth, Tamiya Botaro. Botaro’s father, Tamiya Genpachiro, is a fencing master. His rival Hori Gentazaemon, is so in fear of the superior skills of Botaro’s father that he kills him by subterfuge. The child is orphaned and brought up by the nursemaid Otsuji in Shido Temple where he is advised by his uncle to behave as if deaf and dumb in order to throw off his enemies. His nurse Otsuji believes he is really mute and prays with ritual ablutions to the god Konpira in order that he may regain his speech and become skilled at arms in order to avenge his father's killer. In the play, Otsuji commits suicide as an act of sacrifice, dying in the knowledge that Botaro could speak after all and that his martial skills would enable him to achieve his revenge, even while still a child. He accomplishes his revenge at the age of eighteeen.

Yoshitoshi is credited with designing the definitive version of the story, so influential at the time that the kabuki stage was altered in order to accomodate his vision of the scene. It is always so interesting when accepted versions of events turn out to be quite wrong. It is accepted that Yoshitoshi made the 'definitive' version of this story and yet, Hiroshige has the scene laid out precisely as Yoshitoshi drew it, a full fifty years earlier. Comparison with the famous Yoshitoshi of the same subject shows how little he changed the design, even down to the bend in the rope. A copy of this print is in the Honolulu Museum of Art.

A fine print, Full size with margins, colour impression and condition are all excellent, some surface discolouration.

Published by Ibaya Sensaburo.

38cm x 26cm.