Kuniyoshi 国芳: Woman Playing with Child; Act Eleven of the 47 Ronin

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Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861)
Title: Woman playing with Child; Act Eleven of the Chushingura
Series: Mitate Inspired by the Play Chûshingura (mitate chôchin-gura)
Date: 1847-53

A young woman enjoys playing with a small boy; she leans forward as he imagines himself one of the 47 Ronin, seeming to to re-enact a scene from this  famous moment in Japanese history. Above we see one of the ronin holding up a lantern; he wears a helmet and is probably looking for the bad guy in the story, Moronao. The child has tied some fabric to his head, perhaps like his hero’s helmet, and seems to have been holding a lantern which has just clattered to the floor. The beauty wears a beautiful blue kimono with a shibori pattern of a paulownia, which was also a famous crest. This gently humorous mitate series compares daily activities to chapters of the 47 Ronin, or the story of the Chushingura. We see the main figures of the chapters from Kabuki “Chûshin-gura” on lanterns on the right top--however the title of prints  is a phonetically similar “chôchin,” meaning a lantern instead of “chûshin,” loyal retainers. 

Publisher: Yamamoto-ya Heikichi
Seal: censors’ seals: Muramatsu & Yoshimura (1847-53)
Signature: Ichiyûsai Kuniyoshi ga

Condition: Excellent impression, color and condition. A few minor creases.

LIterature: Another work from this series is pictured in “Heroes & Ghosts”, page 138, plate 143. See the Victoria and Albert Museum.