Kitagawa Utamaro, ‘Treasury of Loyal Retainers: Act Six’, ca. 1801-02, Scholten Japanese Art

signed Utamaro hitsu, with publisher's seal Eijudo (Nishimuraya Yohachi), ca. 1801-02

oban tate-e 15 1/4 by 10 1/2 in., 38.8 by 26.7 cm

This series likens various famous scenes from the wildly popular kabuki drama, Chushingura ('Treasure of Loyal Retainers'), to vignettes from the everyday lives of the people of Edo. The primary composition of three figures illustrates a geisha tying a sash at her waist in preparation to depart for an assignation. A maid kneels by her side while holding a lantern and the background a male servant ties a green furoshiki cloth around her shamisen box. In the inset panel, a scene from the Chushingura likewise depicts three characters: the heroine Okaru preparing to depart for the Ichirikiya teahouse as she has been sold to the brothel, leaving behind her distressed elderly mother, and her husband Kampei, who at that moment believes (mistakenly) that he has inadvertently killed an ally with his gun which is on the floor in front of him. At the conclusion of the scene Kampei commits seppuku, but does not die before it is revealed that he was not responsible for the murder.

Series: Treasury of Loyal Retainers

Image rights: Scholten Japanese Art

Publisher: Nishimuraya Yohachi

Kiyoshi Shibui, Ukiyo-e Zuten Utamaro, 1964, no. 165.2.2
Gina Collia-Suzuki, The Complete Woodblock Prints of Kitagawa Utamaro, A Descriptive Catalogue, 2009, pp. 51-53
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (www.mfa.org), from the Bigelow Collection, accession no. 21.16

About Kitagawa Utamaro