47 Ronin – The Ultimate Vision

Collectors of Hisashi Otsuka’s millennium masterpiece 47 Ronin – The Ultimate Vision will experience first hand one of Japan’s most famous heroic epics, a true story that has been retold in a myriad of artistic forms.

Otsuka’s works have abounded with classical themes, technical disciplines and cultural nuances that are central to the Japanese experience. These strengths are epitomized in 47 Ronin – The Ultimate Vision. Otsuka’s 47 Ronin series, with The Ultimate Vision as the culmination, is one of the most sustained and compelling bodies of work in contemporary art. The saga recounts the tale of duty-driven revenge mounted by forty-seven samurai who became leaderless (ronin) after their Lord, Asano, was tricked into drawing his sword against Kira, an evil nobleman, in the shogun’s court. Asano was sentenced to commit ritual suicide (seppuku) for the offense, while Kira was unpunished.

Asano’s men, headed by their general, Oishi, waited two years and endured great personal shame while secretly planning to avenge their Lord’s disgrace and restore his rightful honor. In a great battle – without any fatalities of their own – the 47 Ronin were able to subdue or kill all 61 of Kira’s armed guards. The cowardly Kira was unable to die honorably by his own hand, and was beheaded by Oishi. Subsequently, although the Shogun was sympathetic to their heroic act, to pardon the 47 Ronin would be to condone future vendettas. It was decided that each of the 47 would execute himself, not as a criminal but as an honored warrior. The ronin were buried beside their master – in upholding the code of bushido, they became enduring national symbols of loyalty and honor. The graveyard at Sengaku-ji Temple in the heart of Tokyo has become a shrine for admirers, and before the graves of the 47 Ronin the smoke of incense has been ascending every day throughout almost three centuries.

Hisashi Otsuka has identified each of forty-nine individual portraits in his remarkable tour de force limited edition print. With a background of castles, Asano is at left and Kira at the right foreground, both in color. Behind them are all 47 Ronin, in black and white, with Oishi in the middle of the front row. The state of the art printing process includes extensive embossing and foil stamping of the highest standard.

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