Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Kuniyoshi: Kanadehon Chushingura “a Japanese Kabuki production”

The following is taken from the website for “Degener Japanese Fine Prints”

From: http://www.degener.com/A_1057.htm

Kanadehon Chushingura “a Japanese Kabuki production”

Of the numerous dramas performed in the kabuki theater, by far the most popular as a subject for color prints was the Chushingura, or the "Loyal League of Forty-seven Ronin", mostly published in series of eleven or twelve designs corresponding to the eleven acts of the drama (with occasionally an additional design of one of the extra-scenes of act XI, like in the case of the set by Kuniyoshi represented in this section). The fact that the complete play was illustrated in an entire series of 'tableaux' gives us some idea of its immense popularity, a popularity which it has retained to the present day.
Originally written for the marionette theater by Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653-1723) and Takeda Izumo (1688-1756),
Japan's two most celebrated playwrights, the Chushingura was first performed in Edo in 1748. - The Chushingura is founded on an historical event which took place in the fourteenth year of the Genroku period, that is in 1701, and relates how a certain noble, Asano Takumi-no-Kami, was so persistently insulted by another noble, Kira Kotsuke-no-Suke, his instructor in Court etiquette, that he was at last compelled to draw his sword upon his tormentor in the latter's palace, though he only managed to inflict a slight wound, owing to the timely (or untimely, according to the point of view) interference of a certain officer, Kajikawa Yosobei, thanks to whom Kotsuke escaped an attack which otherwise would certainly have ended fatally for him. Such an offence (drawing his weapon within the Court precincts) was punishable by death, and Takumi-no-Kami was condemned to commit seppuku, or self-immolation.
The revenge-story of his faithful retainers who so had become masterless samurai, or ronin, is the subject of the play, here illustrated by Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

Henk Herwig, "Heroes of the kabuki stage", Amsterdam, 2004. The play is discussed in detail in chapter 16, 'Chushingura, the Story of the Loyal Retainers', pp. 179 - 196; the illustrations in the book were made from our set.
William Pearl's gradually expanding web site, exclusively devoted to the work of Kuniyoshi: Kuniyoshi Project

Please visit http://www.degener.com/A_1057.htm for all of the prints in this series

Act III: Kamakura Jidaikan, Bloodshed

Yenya's attack on Moronao, he is being restrained, while the latter falls.


Act IV: Hokan's Hara-kiri

Yuranosuke outside the castle by night, holding the dirk with which his lord had performed seppuku.


Act VII: Ichiriku Geisha House

The spy, Kudayu, dragged from under the flooring; Yuranosuke and O-Karu above.


Act VIII: The Bride on her Way

The bridal journey of Konami and her mother, Tonase; they rest under a tree, with Fuji in the background


Act IX: The Quiet Retreat in Yamashina

Rikiya attacking Honzo with a spear, Yuranosuke in the doorway.


Act XI / scene 1: The Raid

The ronin in the snow surrounding Moronao, who has been dragged from the charcoal-


Act XI / scene 2: Moronao's head

Yuranosuke and the ronin laying the head of Moronao on their lord's tomb.


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