A GUIDE TO JAPANESE PRINTS - BASIL STEWART
HIROSHIGE'S ILLUSTRATIONS TO THE "CHUSHINGURA"- (continued)
BESIDES the two foregoing series, Hiroshige issued yet a third full-size, oblong set, through the publisher Marusei, which appears to be the least common of any by him in this form. The latest Japanese work on Hiroshige, which professes to catalogue all the known series by him, makes no mention of this Chushingura set, while it gives both the Senichi and Arita-ya sets.
The Marusei set may be distinguished by the following characteristics from the other two oblong sets.
It has a black and white indented border on which appears the tomo-ye crest at intervals, while in several of the scenes the principal figures are drawn on a larger scale. On each plate are two round censor's seals, those of Kinugasa and Watanabe, showing that this set was issued during the Prohibition period, 1842-1853. The publisher's seal of Marusei occurs only on the first act. The title, "Chushingura," followed by the number of the act portrayed, is on a red label in the top right-hand corner.
Act I. In the grounds of the Hachiman Temple looking out over the Bay of Yedo. Moronao, in high dudgeon, turning his back on Wakasa and Yenya, and walking away; Lady Kawoyo behind them looking at the retreating Moronao. Behind Wakasa grows a big tree. The sky a beautiful rosy pink, which makes this scene one of the best in the set, and counter-acts the somewhat crude drawing of the figures.
Act II. Honzo drawing his sword preparatory to cutting off the branch of a big pine tree, while Wakasa, seated by the veranda, watches him. Behind, in another room, on the left, Konami receiving Rikiya.
Act III. Scene by the moat of Kamakura Castle in the early morning. Kampei defending Okaru from Bannai and his men.
Act IV. Like the same act in the Arita-ya set described above, this is a very unusual treatment of this scene, and is almost identical with the former, except that it is reversed, that is to say, the moat is shown on the left of the picture, and the building behind on the right, while a large round paper lantern stands on the ground beside Yuranosuke, who faces right instead of left. (See Plate 41 for the illustration of this act in the Arita-ya set.)
Act V. The best plate in this set. Sadakuro, with Yoichibei's bag of money firmly held in his mouth, wipes his sword and at the same time kicks over the dead body of the old man down the slope. On the other side, at the foot of a tree-clad hill, the meeting of Yagoro and Kampei. (See Plate 42.)
There is no separate rain-block to this plate, rain being indicated by the streaky appearance of the dark background.
Act VI. Kampei receiving Yagoro and Goyemon at the door of Yoichibei's hut. A flat landscape with low hills in the distance, and in the foreground a stream by the side of which grows a clump of bamboos, and beyond the further bank a solitary tree.
Act VII. The tea-house scene. Yuranosuke reading the letter from Lady Kawoyo in the light of a full moon, while Okaru reads it from above by the aid of a mirror concealed in a book, and Kudayu under the veranda reading it with the aid of a large pair of spectacles.
Act VIII. The Bridal Journey. An unusual treatment of this scene. In the right foreground a porter turns to address a girl close behind him leading a horse ; further along the winding road are Tonase and Konami, followed by another porter, turning to look at the great white cone of Fuji. (See Plate 42.)
Act IX. Honzo in disguise arrives at the gate of Yuranosuke's house just as Tonase prepares to take her daughter's life. A good snow scene.
Act X. Gihei seated on the basket in which Yuranosuke is concealed defying a party of six ronin to dislodge him.
Sometimes Gihei is shown seated on the chest containing the armour, and sometimes on the basket in which Yuranosuke is concealed; strictly speaking, according to the story, the latter is the more correct version.
Act XI. First Episode. Snow scene in the grounds of Moronao's castle. The fight between the ronin and Moronao's retainers.
Act XI. Second Episode. Snowy sunrise over Yedo Bay. The forty-seven ronin, headed by Yuranosuke and Rikiya, arrive up a steep slope before Yenya's tomb at Sengakuji Temple, where they are received by two priests, one of them bearing an incense burner. One of the best plates in the set.
The last Chushingura series by Hiroshige which we have space to mention in detail is a very rare half-plate set issued during the Prohibition period, about 1845, through the publisher Fuji-kei, whose sign occurs on Acts II, X, and the Second Episode of Act XI. The censor's seal of Muramatsu occurs on Acts III, IV, VI, IX, X, and XI. Each scene has a black border on which is repeated the tomo-ye crest. Both in colour and drawing it is a great improvement on the full-size Marusei set, issued about the same time, and in this respect follows fairly closely the Arita-ya edition. The set from which the illustrations at Plate 43 are taken is in unusually good condition and colouring.
Act I. Lady Kawoyo, summoned before the council of nobles at the Hachiman Temple, makes her obeisance at the foot of the steps at the top of which they are seated; before her is the box of helmets.
Act II. Love scene between Konami and Rikiya, her mother listening from behind a screen. (See Plate 43.) Reproduced to show publisher's mark.
Act III. An unusual treatment of this scene. Okaru, escorted by one of Yenya's servants with a lantern, whom she is dismissing, arrives at the bridge over the moat, carrying a letter-box containing her mistress's answer to Moronao, and which she wishes to give to Kampei to convey to Yenya with a request to hand it to Moronao. While Kampei is carrying out his instructions, Bannai approaches and attempts to make Okaru run off with him, but he is interrupted by two men (bribed by Kampei) calling out that his master wants him (a trick previously played upon Kampei by Bannai), and he returns into the palace and at the same moment Kampei comes out again to Okaru. Later, after Yenya's attack on Moronao, Bannai comes out a second time and attempts to arrest Kampei. (See Plate 43.)
Act V. Sadakuro robbing Yoichibei of his money; scene in the mountains, with a great pine tree in foreground. Dark blue sky changing to black at top indicating nightfall, but no rain-block.
Act VI. Kampei, with gun on shoulder, stands on a small plank bridge over a stream, gazing abstractedly at the landscape, while from the further side approaches the kago containing Okaru and the tea-house proprietor. In background the straw-thatched roofs of cottages, and a willow tree over-hanging the stream.
Act VII. Yuranosuke, blindfolded, coming down the steps from the veranda of the tea-house, after the tea-house girls; overhead a full moon.
Act VIII. Tonase and Konami resting under the shade of a large tree overlooking the seashore, and admiring the fine view of Fuji. (See Plate 43.)
Act IX. Tonase preparing to take her daughter's life is arrested by hearing Honzo's pipe outside the gate of Yuranosuke's house.
Act X. Gihei, on his knees, being threatened by a patrol of ronin; behind him is the large basket concealing Yuranosuke.
Act XI. First Episode. The attack on Moronao's castle ; snow scene under a full moon. Ohowashi Bungo attacking the main door with his huge mallet, while behind others are effecting an entrance over the roof by scaling ladders.
Act XI. Second Episode. The ronin, headed by Yuranosuke and Rikiya, climbing up the snow-clad slope leading to their lord's tomb at Sengakuji Temple, and a priest squatting at the entrance. (See Plate 43.)
In instances such as those given above in this chapter where the last act is portrayed in two or more episodes, these really form illustrations to the story only, as in the dramatized version as acted on the stage, the play always ends with the attack on Moronao's castle and the death of their enemy, the subsequent incidents while on their way to Sengakuji not being given.
At Plate 43 we also illustrate three acts, the first, second, and third, from a very rare panel series, complete in four plates, printed three-on-a-block, issued by Hiroshige through the publisher Yamaguchi-ya (Tobei), with the title Chushingura.
The different acts follow the usual treatment sufficiently to be easily identified. In Act III Okaru is shown giving the letter-box to Kampei to take to Yenya, containing Lady Kawoyo's answer to Moronao.
Act VII. Okaru coming down the ladder from the upper balcony at the tea-house in Kyoto.
Act X. 0-Sono seeking admission to Gihei's house.
Act XI. First Episode. The ronin crossing the bridge; below, the waiting boat. Snow scene.
Second Episode. Yuranosuke and Rikiya at Yenya's tomb
Hiroshige II has designed a Chushingura set, full size, oblong, complete in twelve scenes, with the usual tome-ye border; publisher Fuji-kei; seal-dated for the year 1855; signed Ichiyusai Shigenobu.