Height: 281.000 mm
Length: 7816.000 mm
Gift of Dr and Mrs Michael Harari
Asia JA JP ADD692 (1982.7-1.07)
Jichōsai, Chūshingura ('Treasury of the Forty-seven Loyal Retainers'), a handscroll painting
Mid-Edo period, late 18th century AD
'The Treasury of the Forty-seven Loyal Retainers' is the fictionalized version of an actual historical event that took place during the Genroku era (1688-1704). In 1701, the lord of Akō (in western Japan), was provoked by the arrogant treatment he had received at the shogunal court into attacking the chief of protocol Kira Yoshinaka. For this crime his domain was confiscated and he was ordered to commit suicide. For nearly two years, forty-seven of his retainers bided their time, plotting revenge. Finally they stormed Kira's mansion and killed him. Although they were regarded as heroes by many for their unswerving loyalty, the authorities ordered them all to commit suicide.
The story became an extremely popular theme for plays and paintings. This scroll is painted with the best-known scene from each of the eleven acts of the play, in Jichōsai's typically light, humorous style. The action is represented symbolically: for example a lone figure with sword in hand stands for a more detailed narrative description. The viewer is left to fill in the details from their own knowledge of the tale.
Jichōsai was the art-name of Matsuya Heizaburō (worked about 1781-88), a sake brewer and curio dealer of Osaka who was also a comic writer and producer of kyōga - light-hearted, comic pictures.
I. Hirayama and T. Kobayashi (eds.), Hizō Nihon bijutsu taikan-1, vol. 2 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1992)