The Treasury of Loyal Retainers (Chūshingura): Sawamura Sōjūrō III as Enya Hangan

Accession Number

The Treasury of Loyal Retainers (Chūshingura): Sawamura Sōjūrō III as Enya Hangan

Katsukawa Shun'ei

Artist Nationality
Japanese (culture or style)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
woodblock print on paper

14 1/2 in x 9 7/16 in (36.83 cm x 23.97 cm);19 3/8 in x 14 5/16 in (49.21 cm x 36.35 cm)

Credit Line
Museum Purchase

Label copy
Sawamura Sôjûrô III was one of the leading actors on the Kabuki stage in the last decades of the eighteenth century. All contemporary artists portray him with an immediately recognizable physiognomy, with a nearly round 3/4 profile and small eyes.
This print by Katsukawa Shun'ei, a member of a family of artists that specialized in actor prints, draws inspiration from the famous actor series by Sharaku of 1794-95, in which the backgrounds were of mica. Here, a pale silver is used to mimic that more expensive effet. The actor is shown in simple but very tasteful formal dress for a samural. His outer robes, known in Japanese as 'kamishimo,' would originally have been blue, but the blue has faded to a deep tan color.
M. Graybill, Senior Curator of Asian Art

Subject matter
Sawamura Sōjūrō III was active from 1759 to 1801. In this print, he plays the part of En'ya Hangan, one of the tragic heroes of the play. The Treasury of Loyal Retainers is one of the most popular kabuki plays, with a plot known to English audiences as The Forty-seven Ronin. Purportedly based on real events surrounding the Asano family, the play recounts the crime and punishment of Hangan and the revenge taken by Hangan’s retainers.  

The artist, Katsukawa Shun'ei, worked for Katsukawa Shunshō and became well known for producing kibyoshi (yellow cover books, or comic novels) after the 1780s.

Physical Description
A man stands calmly looking to the left. He wears a formal sleeveless top (kataginu) and a matching, tan skirt (hakama). Underneath is an orange robe with white designs that match those on the skirt. He carries a sword at his side.

Inscriptions: Publisher's seal: Iwa; Signed: Shun'ei ga

Primary Object Classification

Collection Area

If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form. Keywords
figures (representations)
theater (discipline)

2 Related Resources

(Part of 5 Learning Collections)
W20: Brightwell ASIAN 200/HISTORY 203 - War and Empire
(Part of: Resources Made by Isabel Engel)

& Author Notes

Web Use Permitted