'Kiura Okaemon Sadayuki' and 'Yukugawa Sampei Munenori' by Utagawa Kuniyoshi portray two characters from the revenge of the 47 Ronin. Kuniyoshi’s woodblock print series of the 47 Ronin tells the legendary story based on the historical event known as the Ako incident, when 47 loyal samurai avenged the death of their master. We are delighted to include these notable prints in our forthcoming auction of Asian Works of Art taking place in Edinburgh on Wednesday 11 March.
One of the most famous episodes in Japanese history, the Ako incident began in 1701, when daimyo lord, Asano Naganori of Ako, visited the shogun’s court in Edo on official business and assaulted a senior court official, Kira Yoshinaka, after Kira had greatly affronted him. Asano was then sentenced to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) as attacking a government official in the residence of the shogun (Edo Castle) was a capital offence. Asano's samurai were reduced to the status of ronin or masterless samurai. Forty-seven of Asano’s warriors resolved to restore their lord's honour, considering it an injustice that Kira was unpunished. After waiting and planning for over a year to throw off suspicion, the ronin avenged their lord's honour by killing Kira.
An important and popular story in Japanese culture, the story of the 47 Ronin became emblematic of the loyalty and honour that people should sustain in their daily lives. The legend of the 47 Ronin was adapted into kabuki plays, bunraku puppet shows, woodblock prints and later films and television shows. The two ukiyo-e woodblock prints by Utagawa Kuniyoshi presented here are such examples of the popular depictions of story of the 47 Ronin.
Working in the 1800s, Japanese painter and printmaker, Utagawa Kuniyoshi was one of the last great masters of the ukiyo-e movement. A member of the Utagawa school, Kuniyoshi rose to fame with his musha-e or warrior print series Tsuzoku Suikoden goketsu hyakuhachinin (108 Heroes from Shui-hu ch’uan). Kuniyoshi’s most sought after works were his portrayals of famous samurai and legendary heroes, though he worked across genres, producing landscapes, portraits of women and Kabuki actors and depictions of animals.
Asian & Islamic Works of Art
Wednesday 11th March at 10am | Edinburgh