Utamaro Kitagawa, Parody of Act VII of Chushingura

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Original Japanese woodblock print.

Artist: Utamaro Kitagawa (1753 - 1806)
Title: A Parody of Act VII of Chushingura
Series: Eight Views of Courtesans with Mirrors
Date: Late 18th century
Dimensions: 25.1 x 37.4 cm
Condition: Backing. Slight discolouration and residue paper around edges from previous mounting.

Act VII of the Kanedon Chushingura is full of plot and intrigue. The play recounts the story of the forty-seven rōnin, legendary vigilantes of the Edo period (1603-1868). With their cause almost being foiled, the drama escalates at this point of the play with letters, spies and espionage intensifying the peril of their revenge. Utamaro tightly weaves this literary backdrop into his series 'Eight Views of Courtesans with Mirrors'; such series' titles encouraged interesting thematic choices, from simple portraiture to scenes with dramatic or historical allusions. In this design, Utamaro presents a scene central to Act VII, where Okaru, the wife of one of the rōnin, attempts to spy on Yuranosuke, another of the rōnin who seems to have his lost his resolve in their cause. Okaru cleverly uses a mirror to read the letter in its reflection. Okaru's strong dedication to the rōnin's cause is shown throughout the play as she risks her life to advance it. In order to garner funds, she willingly places herself in a courtesan house, her hairstyle here indicative of her profession. Her kimono has been patterned with stylised clusters of hydrangeas, a flower strongly associated with the rainy season in Japan.

More Information
Artist Name Utamaro I Kitagawa
Title A Parody of Act VII of Chushingura
Subject Beauty & Female, Male & Female
Dimensions 25.1 x 37.4 cm