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Yoshitoshi
Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1839-1892
One Hundred Aspects of the Moon: no. 4, The Gion District
(Tsuki hyakushi: Gionmachi)

signed Yoshitoshi with artist's seal Taiso, engraver's mark Enkatsu, and published by Akiyama Buemon, ca. 1885
oban tate-e 13 7/8 by 9 1/2 in., 35.2 by 24.1 cm
This composition depicts a scene from the famous Kabuki play, Chushingura, commonly known in English as The Forty-Seven Ronin. The play is based on real events which occurred between 1701 and 1703. Lord Asano, a rural nobleman, was required to commit suicide after drawing his sword in the imperial palace and wounding Lord Kira, an imperial envoy who had insulted him. Two years later, to avenge Asano's death, 47 of his retainers killed Kira and laid his head on Asano's grave. In the play, Asano is renamed En’ya Hangan, Kira is renamed Ko no Moronao, and the story is reset in the 14th century.
This design is taken from Act VII and is set outside the Ichiriki teahouse in Kyoto's Gion district. The figure is Rikiya, son of the leader of the samurai Oishi Yuranosuke. Rikiya looks around anxiously while en route to his father. Alongside his sword, which he grasps tightly, he holds a letter containing news of the conspirators' plans. His short coat bears resemblance to the black and white design which would become emblematic of The Forty-Seven Ronin.
Reference:
Stevenson, Yoshitoshi's One Hundred Aspects of the Moon, 2001, cat. no. 4
price: $ 675