Act 5 of "The Treasury of Loyal Retainers"


Act 5 of "The Treasury of Loyal Retainers"

Paintings / Edo

By Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849)

Edo period, dated 1806 (Bunka 3)

横大判 錦絵


Night has fallen and a fiendish-looking man in black is attacking an elderly man with an umbrella.

"Kanadehon Chushingura", or "The Treasury of Loyal Retainers," is a famous kabuki play based on an event that occurred at the start of the 18th century, when 47 retainers set out to avenge the death of their master. Katsushika Hokusai has transformed several scenes from the play into an ukiyo-e woodblock print.

Two other figures can be seen in the distance. One of these is Hayano Kanpei, a hunter and former retainer. Kanpei is filled with remorse for being absent when events forced his lord to commit seppuku, or ritual suicide. The other man is also a former retainer who Kanpei has met by chance. Kanpei is asking his former colleague to help him avenge their lord.

Kanpei's wife raised the funds for the campaign by working as a prostitute in a red light district. The man in the center of the screen beneath the umbrella is her father. While returning with the funds, he is set upon by the villainous Ono Sadakuro, who proceeds to steal the money. The story grows even more tragic when this scoundrel is shot by a projectile apparently fired by Kanpei, who was hunting down a wild boar. This scene also captures the moment when the boar leaps out behind Sadakuro.

In this way, Hokusai has portrayed three different moments from this dramatic night across the foreground, middle ground and background of the screen.

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