The eighth print appearing in Volume 1 of Gishi taikan, edited by Fukumoto Nichinan.
The artist, Tomita Keisen, presents us with a view of the Confucian scholar, philosopher and military strategist Yamaga Sokō 山鹿素行 (1622-1685), credited with developing the concept of shidō "the way of the samurai", teaching a group of Akō domain retainers. Yamaga came to Akō in 1652 at the invitation of its daimyō, Asano Naganao 浅野長直 (1610-1672), grandfather of Asano Naganori 浅野長矩 (1667-1701), to train the Asano clan in military science. In 1660, after nine years, he resigned from his position going to Edo to open his own school. Running afoul of the shogunate by contradicting prevailing doctrine on the role of the samurai, in 1666 he was sent into exile, back to Akō in the custody of Asano Naganao, where he remained until pardoned in 1675, when he returned to Edo.
In building the legend surrounding the Righteous Samurai vendetta and its leader Ōishi Yoshio (大石 良雄, 1659-1703), Yamaga and his teachings have been positioned as a motivating driver of, and justification for, the vendetta. Fukumoto Nichinan's commentary accompanying this print (see below) indicates that Yamaga's impact on Ōishi enabled him "to create a group of forty-seven warriors that attracted the attention of the nation." In John A. Tucker's words, "Yamaga was early on implicated in the whole [revenge] incident as if he and Ōishi were co-conspirators." In Section 32 of Genroku kaikyoroku, Fukumoto tell us that , "From an early age, he [Ōishi] aspired to the path of literature and martial arts, and studied hard under Yamaga Sokō. Considering the time period, Sokō was exiled to Akō for ten years from [Ōishi's] age of eight until he turned seventeen, and it was during this period that he received his education."
While Yamaga's teachings were widely disseminated throughout Japan, many historians cast doubt on the influence he had on Ōishi's actions in taking revenge against Kira, the shogun's master of ceremonies, attacked by Ōishi's lord Asano Naganori. Objections center around the improbability of Ōishi ever having been taught by Yamaga, even when Yamaga was in exile, Ōishi's actions not being consistent with Yamaga's teachings and Ōishi's lack of any mention of Yamaga in his writings.
The propagation of the myth of Yamaga's influence on Ōishi by adherents of Yamaga's teachings, many of whom rose to positions of power after the Meiji Reformation, was instrumental in young Emperor Meiji's 1868 imperial rescript praising Ōishi and the righteous samurai and the public veneration of the vendetta.
click on image to enlarge
Print Commentary from Volume 1 of Gishi Taikan
image source: The Early Japanese Book Portal Database, Art Research Center AkoRH-R0419-1
【畫 院展派 富田渓仙】
【賛 元?應大學長 貴族院議員 號竹堂 鎌田榮吉】
Portraying a Historical Figure
Pre-dating this 1920 portrayal of Yamaga Sogo on the right was the undated and unattributed image on the left.
Tomita Keisen 冨田溪仙 (1879 - 1936)
Tomita was born in Hakata (Fukuoka). His given name was Shingorō. He studied the Shijō style of painting in Kyoto with Tsuji Kakō (1871-1931). He also studied Heian Buddhist painting and nanga (traditional Japanese painting). He exhibited in the official Bunten, Teiten and Inten exhibitions. Exhibited paintings with Saiko Nihon Bijutsuin (Reorganized Japan Fine Art Academy) in 1915, and became a member of the Academy in1916. He is credited with creating a new style of kacho-ga and was one of the foremost painters of his generation.
For more information on this artist go to https://myjapanesehanga.com/home/artists/tomita-keisen-1879-1936.html