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with mica backgroud, signed Shunsen with artist’s seal Shunsen, publisher’s seal Watanabe (Watanabe Shozaburo), ca. 1953
dai oban tate-e 15 1/2 by 10 5/8 in., 39.5 by 27 cm
The actor Kataoka Nizaemon XIII (1903-1994) is in the role Momoi Wakasanosuke from the play Kanadehon Chushingura (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers), commonly known as The Forty-Seven Ronin. Based on historical events which commenced in 1701, this legendary drama set centuries earlier in 1338 tells the story of forty-seven master-less samurai who conspire to avenge the enforced seppuku (ritual suicide) of their lord, Enya Hangan. Wakasanosuke, a young and fiery warrior, is notably not one of the loyal ronin. Rather, he shares rank with Hangan and the evil Lord Kata Moronao and plays an integral role in facilitating the conflict between the two.
Often the victim of disrespect at the hands of Moronao, Wakasanosuke observes his adversary coming on to Hangan’s wife. Though they come short of blows, Wakasanosuke departs, intent on killing Moronao the next time the lord insults him. His retainers, prevent Wakasanosuke from following through with this promise by offering gifts to Moronao in the hopes of forcing Moronao to express a shamefully public change of heart regarding Wakasanosuke’s character. Moronao accepts the gifts, and obediently prostrates in front of his would-be enemy. This false expression of good faith is quite unpleasant for Moronao, who promises to himself that he will unleash a monstrous insult on the next person who crosses his path. As it happens, it is Enya Hangan who next comes around the corner. In the following tragic scene, Moronao’s outrageous provocations breaks the usually even-tempered Hangan. Hangan draws his sword and strikes at Moronao, the crime for which he commits seppuku.
Aubrey S. and Giovanna M. Halford, The Kabuki Handbook, 1956, pp. 138-147 (re: play)
Yamaguchi Keizoro, Shunsen Natori Exhibition Catalogue, Kushigata, 1991, no. 76
Kozo Yamada, Shunsen Natori: Collection of the Kushigata Shunsen Museum of Art, 2002, p. 52, cat. no. 75
Honolulu Museum of Art (honolulumuseum.org), object no. 27512