Label Text: Kuniyoshi designed a series in which a full sheet is dedicated to each one of the faithful 47 samurai, made masterless ronin by the unfair disgrace and death of their feudal lord, or clan leader. This sheet features a warrior known as Sanpei in the fictionalized kabuki account of historical events of 1701-1703. Perhaps to maintain his fighting skills, he fends off a lamp using his katana sword.
The extensive narrative describes Sanpei quietly biding his time while secretly plotting with the other ronin to avenge the death of their master. The 47 know the penalty for their loyalty could be execution.
The text also includes two short poems. One describes the interdependence of a lord and his loyal retainers, who must not be forgotten. The other poem contemplates the unknown journey toward death.
The play subversively challenges the authority of Japan’s shogun, the chief military dictator. In accordance to Confucian ideals, filial duty—or, in this case, loyalty to
a local master—is presented as paramount, even above adherence to the shogun’s law.