horizontal ōban; nishiki-e; musha-e
This print is signed "Hiroshige ga" ('drawn by Hiroshige') at lower-left. Immediately to the right of the signature are the circular kiwame seal of the censor and the seal of publisher Izumiya Ichibei of the firm Kansendō, whose address is indicated as Shiba, Tokyo. The title of the series and the act of the play are given in the red cartouche at upper-right.
This scene, which was not commonly performed, features two important plot points, both of which Hiroshige has expressed in a single panel. In the left foreground, Ōboshi Rikiya, the son of one of the retainers, has arrived to announce a summons from the malicious Lord Moronō, the play's villain. Rikiya's betrothed, Konami can be seen in front of the screen, while her mother, Tonase, crouches behind it. In this scene, the women have been chastised for gossiping about the day's previous events, which saw Moronō humiliate their master, the daimyō Enya Hagan. This slight also accounts for Rikiya's drawn sword, symbolic of his anger toward Moronō. In the background, the young warlord Momonoi Wakanosuke — in whose home this scene occurs — can be seen crouching as he speaks to Kakogawa Honzō, the chief of the 47 loyal retainers. At this moment depicted by Hiroshige, the younger has confessed to the elder his desire to seek vengeance against Moronō, no matter the consequences. Signaling his agreement with the plan, Honzō cuts a branch off the bonzai tree, visible in the small garden.
Hiroshige has here masterfully drawn a parallel between the interior and exterior scenes: while the men plot murder outside next to the bonzai, the women crouch inside near a painting of bamboo, fearing for their husbands and lovers. This composition emphasizes the far-reaching consequences of the men's conversation for both them and those inside their house.
samurai; weapons; swords; figures; male; female; houses; calligraphy; seals; woodcut
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