This is one of a group of woodblock prints on black mica background by Tōshūsai Sharaku (Japanese 1794–1795). The print is in very good condition, paper size is 15 ¼” x 10 ¼”. This is just one of several from the program titled, "Koinyobo Somewake Tazuna"
This picture depicts a scene of a kabuki program called "Koinyobo Somewake Tazuna" performed by the Kawarasaki troupe in May 1794.
The "Koinyobo Somewake Tazuna" is a story of love between Date no Yosaku and Shigenoi and a tragedy surrounding their love with a family problem with the Yurugis as a background: Date no Yosaku, retainer of the Yurugi family, had a ransom to buy the freedom of geisha Iroha, the young lord's lover, stolen by Washizuka Yaheiji and his conspirators. What is worse, his love affair with Shigenoi, a lady's maid, was disclosed and consequently, he was driven out of the Yurugi family. Takemura Sadanoshin, the father of lady's maid Shigenoi and a Noh performer, committed seppuku (hara-kiri) in apology for the trouble his daughter's scandal had caused the Yurugi family. In deference to his seppuku, Shigenoi was excused and became the nurse of the princess of the family. Later, Shigenoi met a child called Sankichi, a pack-horse driver, and found that he was the child between Yosaku and herself. However, she left without telling him that she was his mother (an act of "Shigenoi Kowakare"). Soon, the wicked deeds of Washizuka and his conspirators were disclosed. Yosaku and Sankichi defeated him and were accepted again by the Yurugi family. It is said that this picture depicts the scene where Yosaku, retainer of the Yurugi family, was disowned by and banished from the family.
Artist information: Toshusai Sharaku created over 140 woodblock prints in only 10 months from May 1794 to January 1795 and then suddenly disappeared. Although all of his prints were published by publisher Tsutaya Juzaburo, he is known as a mysterious artist with no other relationships, such as master/apprentice relationships.
Sharaku's woodblock prints are categorized into four periods according to the time he made the prints and his style also changes with these periods. The Tokyo National Museum owns 27 of 28 first period yakusha okubi-e (literally pictures of large heads of actors), which comprises close-ups of actors who performed in summer programs presented by the three main troupes of Edo in May 1794. The 27 pictures are collectively designated as an important cultural property. Ref:E-Museum
The Edo period, or Tokugawa period, is the time between 1603 and 1868 in the history of Japan, when Japanese society was under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate and the country's 300 regional feudal lords. The period was characterized by economic growth, strict social order, isolationist foreign policies, a stable population and popular enjoyment of arts and culture. The shogunate was officially established in Edo on March 24, 1603, by Tokugawa Ieyasu. The period came to an end with the Meiji Restoration on May 3, 1868, after the fall of Edo. Ref: Wikipedia
Ichikawa Monnosuke II as Date no Yosaku, Japanese Woodblock From Edo Period