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The Storehouse of Loyal Retainers Drama Parodied by Famous Beauties
Artist/makerKitagawa Utamaro (c. 1753 - 1806) (designer)
Datec. 1797 - 1798
Material and technique
nishiki-e (multi-block) woodblock print, printed with water-based vegetable pigments
Dimensionsmount 55.5 x 40.5 cm (height x width)
print 36.5 x 25.4 cm sight size (height x width)
No. of items
Presented by Mrs E. M. Allan and Mr and Mrs H. N. Spalding from the Herbert H. Jennings Collection, 1952.
This print is a mitate from Chūshingura ('The Storehouse of Loyal Retainers’), an epic story of a samurai vendetta based on an historical event. Led by the senior retainer Oishi Kuranosuke (1659-1703), the group of 47 men carefully bode their time, allaying enemy suspicions with frivolous behaviour, eventually avenging their lord by slaying the Daimyō Kira Yoshinaka (1641-1702) in Edo on the 14th December 1703. This became the subject of countless bunraku (puppet) and kabuki plays, and was frequently illustrated by ukiyo-e artists.
Kōmyō Bijin Mitate Chūshingura consists of celebrated beauties in twelve scenes from Chūshingura. This print shows the moment when a senior retainer, Kakogawa Honzō disguised as a komusō (a strolling priest) with a straw hat, arrives home to find his wife and daughter about to commit ritual suicide because he has determined to do so. This refers to act 9 of Chūshingura. This series was issued during the same period and by the same publisher, Konoeya, as Gonin-bijin Aikyō-kisoi (Competition of Five Lovely Women) [see EAX.4721]. Interestingly, the same women seem to appear in both series; on the left Itsutomi of the Tomimoto as a komusō, Hiranoya of the Yatsuyama in the centre and Kisegawa of the Matsuba-ya on the right. There is a plum bonsai in a ceramic flowerpot probably implying ume-mi-zuki (plum viewing in February).
Glossary of terms
Mitate, or riddle, is a form of visual and literary parody on a classical theme. It required prior knowledge in order to decipher it.
Mitate-e, or riddle, is a form of visual and literary parody on a classical theme. It required prior knowledge in order to decipher it.
Nishiki-e literally means 'brocade pictures' and refers to multi-coloured woodblock prints.
Vegetable pigments were used to create coloured dyes for Japanese prints, paintings, and textiles. These pigments often faded over time due to the chemical reactions they underwent.