The Series “The 47 Ronin” or “Forty-seven pictures of loyal retainers”
The revenge of the forty-seven rōnin (四十七士, Shijūshichishi), also known as the Akō incident (赤穂事件, Akō jiken) or Akō vendetta, is an 18th-century historical event in Japan in which a band of rōnin (leaderless samurai) avenged the death of their master. The story tells of a group of samurai who were left leaderless after their feudal lord or daimyō Asano Naganori was compelled to perform seppuku (ritual suicide) for assaulting a court official named Kira Yoshinaka. After waiting and planning for a year, the rōnin avenged their master’s honor by killing Kira. They were then obliged to commit seppuku for the crime of murder. This true story was popularized in Japanese culture as emblematic of the loyalty, sacrifice, persistence, and honor that people should display in their daily lives. The popularity of the tale grew during the Meiji era, during which Japan underwent rapid modernization, and the legend became entrenched within discourses of national heritage and identity.
Fictionalized accounts of the tale of the forty-seven rōnin are known as Chūshingura.
This woodblock print is of the samurai Otaka Gengo.
The Woodblock Print
This aiban-sized woodblock print is in very fine condition. Great color and detail with intact and clean margins, the print is backed and has minor paper discolorations. With that exception, this woodblock print from 1896 has good color, visible embossing, and metallic ink that is still reflective. A very fine copy of this print that can surely contribute to a collection of the 47 Ronin series or any samurai collection.
About the Artist
Ogata Gekkō (尾形月耕, 1859-1920) was a Japanese artist best known as a painter and a designer of ukiyo-e woodblock prints. He was self-taught in art, won numerous national and international prizes, and was one of the earliest Japanese artists to win an international audience.
Gekkō was self-taught in art and began by decorating porcelain and rickshaws, and designing flyers for the pleasure quarters. Around 1881 he took the surname Ogata at the insistence of a descendant of the painter Ogata Kōrin. He soon was designing prints and illustrating books and newspapers. In 1886 Gekkō produced the print series Gekkō Zuihitsu (月耕随筆, “Gekkō’s Random Sketches”). In 1888, he married an art student of his, Tai Kiku, his second marriage, and changed his family name to Tai. The First Sino-Japanese War was the subject of a number of triptychs he designed in 1894–95. From the 1890s onward Gekkō won a number of art prizes, both national and international, one of the earliest Japanese artists to win international attention.