'Forty-Seven Rōnin. Legend As an Art': Muscovites to view 19th century engravings

December 2, 2019

An exhibition of Japanese prints 'Forty-Seven Rōnin. Legend As an Art' opens at the State Museum of Oriental Art on 13 December.

The display includes over 60 engravings of the 19th century from Kirill Daneliya’s collection, centred around the legend of a samurai who decided to avenge the death of their master. In particular, guests will see works by Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865), Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861), Toyohara Chikanobu (1838-1912) and others. Many artworks are displayed in Russia for the first time.

The legend of the 47 rōnin is inspired by true events. On 21 April 1701 (in the Edo period in Japanese historiography), daimyō Asano Naganori was insulted by the master of ceremonies at the court of the military ruler of Japan (shōgun) and attacked the offender during the annual ritual of exchanging new year's offerings. Shedding blood within the walls of the ruler's residence was a grave crime, so Asano Naganori was forced to commit seppuku (ritual suicide).

The samurai who had obeyed him became rōnin, 'wanderers in the stormy waves'. They could not accept the fact that their master's assailant was alive and escaped punishment. For nearly two years, former samurai were getting ready to revenge. On the night of 31 January 1703, the rōnin seized the estate of master of ceremonies Kira Yoshinaka and killed him, and then surrendered to the authorities and committed seppuku.

Gradually, the story turned into a folk legend and inspired Kabuki and Bunraku performances. Engravings of the rōnin used to be made specially for the shows. Those were both posters highlighting new plays, and souvenirs for performance attendees.

Over time, engravings depicting heroes were associated with welfare and prosperity, and it was considered good luck to watch the performance about the faithful rōnin.

Engravings for one of the most renowned productions — 'Kanadehon Chūshingura' ('The Treasury of Loyal Retainers') — were the most printed in Japan in the 19th century.

View the prints until 26 January. The exhibition is open 11:00 am till 08:00 pm Friday to Sunday, and on Tuesday, and 12:00 pm till 09:00 pm on Wednesday and Thursday.

Source: mos.ru

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