The Duel at Takadanobaba
from the Righteous Samurai Collection, 1920
by Matsumoto Fūko
The fourteenth print appearing in Volume 1 of Gishi taikan, edited by Fukumoto Nichinan.
Nakayama Yasubei 中山安兵衛 (1670-1703), later to become Horibe Yasubei 堀部安兵衛 , was considered the finest swordsman of the Righteous Samurai (Forty-seven Rōnin). Orphaned as a child, he was raised by a master swordsman in Edo who became his adoptive uncle. In 1694 he came to the aid of his uncle who was ambushed by his rival at Takadanobaba after being lured there for an honorable duel. Yasubei avenged his uncle’s death by slaughtering at least three of the attackers. Impressed by his swordsmanship, Horibe Yahei, a samurai of the Akō domain, offered the young man the hand of his daughter and the honor of adoption into the Horibe family. Later, both father and adopted son were among the Forty-seven Rōnin who avenged their lord, Asano Naganori, Lord of Akō, and were sentenced to commit seppuku. The print pictures the aftermath of the fight witnessed by a crowd of onlookers, which included Yahei's daughter.
Horibe Yasubei became the leader of the radical faction of the Forty-seven Rōnin who, after the death of Lord Asano by seppuku, advocated for immediate direct attack on Kira, the shogun's master of ceremonies and the target of Asano's attack at the shogun's castle. Ōishi Yoshio 大石良雄 (1659-1703), Lord Asano's chamberlain, argued for a more cautious approach at first before seeking revenge, but would eventually reconcile with Horibe and the radical faction to mount their fatal attack on Kira.
artist signature and seal
大正庚申春二月Taishō kōshin Spring second month (April 1920)
Matsumoto Fūko 松本楓湖 (1840-1923)
Source: Jyuluck-Do Corporation https://jyuluck-do.com/profile_matsumoto_fuko.html and A Dictionary of Japanese Artists: Painting, Sculpture, Ceramics, Prints, Lacquer, Laurance P. Roberts, Weatherhill, 1976, p. 105.