Muramatsu Sandayu Takanao (村松三太夫高直), one of the forty-seven ronin (四十七士) who had been in the service of Asano Naganori (浅野長矩), was a very strong young man and expert in martial arts. To practice with the sword he cut pine branches and a legend is known about him according to which, with a slash, he even managed to cut a wooden pillar that supported the eaves. Here we see him depicted chopping wood, an occupation with which he sustained himself while awaiting the accomplishment of the famous revenge against the evil Kira Yoshinaka (吉良義央).
This precious woodblock print, made by the artist Utagawa Yoshitora (歌川芳虎), is the syllable “Ke” (け) from the series “Biographies of the Faithful Samurai” (誠忠義士銘々傳). The work, entitled “Muramatsu Santaifu Fujiwara no Takanao” (村増山太夫藤原髙直), was produced in May 1866 by the publisher Shimizuya Naojiro (清水屋直次郎) and the engraver Katada Chojiro (片田長次郎).
The print on Japanese washi paper (和紙) shows signs of aging and, in particular, some paper thinning as well as a slight pressure mark from a paper clip on the top margin.