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Ōboshi Yuranosuke from the series Legends of the Loyal Retainers

Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Ōboshi Yuranosuke from the series

Legends of the Loyal Retainers

by Utagawa Kunisada II, 1866


IHL Cat. #630

About This Print

This print pictures the character Ōboshi Yuranosuke from the play Kanadehon Chūshingura (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers, a.k.a. The Forty Seven Ronin), based on the Akō Incident (1701-1703) in which forty-seven retainers of Lord Asano (the character Enya Hangan in the play) take revenge against the shogun's court official Kira Yoshinaka (the character Ko no Moronao in the play), whose actions caused the death of their master.  The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum of Waseda University identifies the actor playing the role of  Ōboshi Yuranosuke as Bandō Hikosaburō V 坂東 彦三郎, although the actor's name does not appear on the print.

The multi-colored cartouche gives the name of the series as Legends of the Loyal Retainers  and the name of the character portrayed is given to the immediate left of this cartouche, in this case Ōboshi Yuranosuke 大星由良之亮.  The background script may provide an account of Yuranosuke's role in the play or actual lines spoken by the character.

To read more about the representations of Chūshingura in woodblock prints see the article on this site Chūshingura (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers) in Woodblock Prints.

Three Related Series

I have located twelve similar appearing prints (as shown below) that at first glance appear to be part of the same series.  However, the series titles which appear in the prints' cartouches are not all the same.  Nine of the prints bear the series title Legends of the Loyal Retainers [Gishi eimei den no uchi 義士英名伝(傳)之内], one print bears the series title Legends Related to the Loyal Retainers (Gishi gaiden no uchi 義士外伝之内) and two prints bear the series title Stories of Virtuous Women (Teijo eimeiden no uchi 貞女英名伝之内). The prints were not all published in the same year, with two published in 1863 and the remainder published in 1866.   At least two of the prints appear to form a diptych, as shown below, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston has grouped three of the prints as a triptych, as also shown below. Scene names (shown beneath the figure portrayed) from the play Kanadehon Chūshingura are given on several of the prints and it is likely that the others also correspond to particular scenes in the play.


 
Hayano Kanpei 早野勘平
from the series titled
Legends of the Loyal Retainers (Gishi eimei den no uchi
義士英名伝(傳)之内)

published 1863 4th month
IHL Cat. #630

The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum Digital Archives Collection 100-1478
identifies the actor as

市村家橘 IV
Ichimura Kakitsu IV

 
Ko no Moronao  高野師直
from the series titled
Legends of the Loyal Retainers (Gishi eimei den no uchi
義士英名伝(傳)之内)

published 1863 4th month
 
Kakogawa Honzo 加古川本蔵 Offering a Pine Branch to Yasuchika Wakanosuke 桃の井若狭之助 from the series titled
Legends of the Loyal Retainers [Gishi eimei den no uchi
 
義士英名伝(傳)之内]

Published 1866 7th month

The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum Digital Archives Collection 100-1476 identifies the actor playing Wakanosuke as 市村家橘 IV Ichimura Kakitsu IV and in print 100-1477 the actor playing Honzo as 坂東 亀蔵 Bandō Kamezō

Act 2. Wakasanosuke’s Mansion: The Pine-cutting Scene

 
Yato Yomoshichi Norikane
矢頭与茂七教兼
from the series titled Legends of the Loyal Retainers [Gishi eimei den no uchi
 
義士英名伝(傳)之内]
Published 1866 7th month
The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum Digital Archives Collection 100-1475
identifies the actor as

市村家橘 IV
Ichimura Kakitsu IV
 
The Amakawaya Apprentice Igo 天川屋丁稚伊吾 and Gihei's Son Yoshimatsu 義平?由松 from the series titled Stories Related to the Loyal Retainers (Gishi gai dan no uchi 義士外伝(傳)之内)
Published 1866 7th month

Lord Enya Hangan 塩冶判官
from the series titled
Legends of the Loyal Retainers [Gishi eimei den no uchi
 
義士英名伝(傳)之内]
Published 1866 7th month

The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum Digital Archives Collection 403-0005
identifies the actor as
河原崎 権十郎
Kawarazaki Gonjūrō

Act 4: Hangan’s Suicide

 Amakawaya Gihei
天川や義平

from the series titled
Legends of the Loyal Retainers [Gishi eimei den no uchi
 
義士英名伝(傳)之内]

Published 1866 7th month
IHL Cat. #629



 
Gihei's Wife Osono
おその 義平房女
from the series titled
Stories of Virtuous Women (Teijo eimei den no uchi 貞女英名伝之内)
Published 1866 7th month
 
Kanpei's Wife Okaru from the series titled Stories of Virtuous Woman
(Teijo eimei den no uchi 貞女英名伝之内)
Published 1866 7th month
IHL Cat. #960

Ōboshi Rikiya 大星力弥
from the series titled Legends of the Loyal Retainers [Gishi eimei den no uchi
 
義士英名伝(傳)之内]
Published 1866 7th month
 
Ōboshi Yuranosuke
大星由良之亮
from the series
Legends of the Loyal Retainers [Gishi eimei den no uchi
 
義士英名伝(傳)之内]
Published 1866 7th month
IHL Cat. #630

The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum Digital Archives Collection 403-0004
identifies the actor as
坂東 彦三郎
Bandō Hikosaburō V


Actors Ichimura Kakitsu IV as the Amakawaya Apprentice (Detchi) Igo, with Gihei's Son (Segare) Oshimtasu (R), Kawarazaki Gonjūrō I as Amakawaya Gihei (C), and Iwai Shijaku II as Gihei's Wife (Nyōbō) Osono (L), from a Chūshingura series.

1866 (Keiō 1), 7th month
Utagawa Kunisada II (Toyokuni IV) Ai-To (Aito)
Vertical
ōban triptych
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Accession number: 2009.5125a-c
The three prints form a triptych, but each is given a slightly different "series title," from right to left: Stories Related to the Loyal Retainers (Gishi gaiden no uchi), Stories of the Loyal Retainers (Gishi eimeiden no uchi), Stories of Virtuous Women (Teijo eimeiden no uchi). Other prints in the series have the title Stories of the Loyal Retainers (Gishi eimeiden no uchi), as on the center sheet, referring to the loyal retainers themselves as opposed to related characters.


The Actual Events: The Akō Incident (1701-03)

The so-called Akō Incident began on April 21, 1701, when the lord of Akō, Asano Naganori, drew his sword in a corridor of Edo Castle and slashed the senior bakufu protocol official, Kira Yoshinaka, in retaliation for a perceived slight.  While Kira suffered only a light wound, Asano was arrested and ordered to commit seppuku later the same day, largely for drawing his sword in the Castle. His estate was confiscated and dissolved leaving his retainers without jobs, or as ronin.  Forty-seven of these ronin signed an oath to avenge their lord by killing Kira and twenty-one months later attacked his Edo mansion, took his head, and marched across the city to the temple of Sengakuji, where they place it before the grave of their master and surrendered. After almost two months of debate, the bakufu ordered the seppuku of the ronin and on March 20, 1703 they committed ritual suicide. Their ashes were interred at Sengakuji.

Ōboshi Yuranosuke and his real-life counterpart Ōishi Kuranosuke

The theatrical adaptation of the Akō Incident, Kanadehon Chūshingura or simply Chūshingura, combined historical characters from the Akō Incident, assigning them thinly disguised fictitious names, along with unrelated historical characters and fictional characters, mostly added to spice up the play with erotica.
Ōboshi Yuranosuke is the fictitious name in the play for the real-life Ōishi Kuranosuke, Lord Asano's head retainer and the head of the revenge plot to assassinate the senior bakufu protocol official, Kira Yoshinaka. It is Ōishi who took Kira's head and placed it before his master's grave at Sengakuji Temple.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog  #630
 Title/Description  Ōboshi Yuranosuke 大星由良之亮
 Series  Legends of the Loyal Retainers (Gishi eimei den no uchi 義士英名伝(傳)之内)
 Artist
 Utagawa Kunisada II (1823-1880)
 Signature
 Baichōrō Kunisada ga 梅蝶楼国貞画
 Seal  None
 Publication Date
aratami inspection and date seal 寅七改 1866 (Keiō 2), 7th month
 Publisher
Sagamiya Tōkichi 相模屋 藤吉, seal name 'Shitaya Aito' 下谷 相ト  [Marks: pub. ref. 435; seal 24-009]
 Impression  excellent
 Colors  excellent
 Condition  good - numerous worm holes repaired from back
 Genre  ukiyo-e; yakusha-e
 Miscellaneous  
 Format  Vertical Oban
 H x W Paper  14 3/8 x 9 5/8 in. (36.5 x 24.4 cm)
 Collections This Print  The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum of Waseda University 403-0004

 Reference Literature
 

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