Maiôgi nanka no hanashi (舞扇南柯話) appears to be one of several adaptations based on a scandalous tale of passionate love.
In 1695 Akaneya Hanshichi (the son of a sake merchant from Gojô in Yamato province) and his lover Minoya Sankatsu (the adopted daughter of Minoya Heizaemon of Nagamachi in Osaka) committed double suicide (shinjû) at Saitarabatake, part of the burial ground of Sennichiji, an Osaka monastery. In response, the play Akane no iroage (Akane's love reawakened) was staged that same year and became the first love-suicide play (shinjû mono: 心中物) to be a hit with the public, running 150 days (anything over 100 days was considered exceptional).
The best known dramatization, Hade sugata onna maiginu (A stylish woman’s dance robe: 艶容女舞絹) premiered in 1772. In that version, Hanshichi deserts his wife Osono for Minoya Sankatsu — a geisha he has loved since before his arranged marriage to Osono. To complicate matters further, Hanshichi and Sankatsu have a young daughter, Otsû. When Hanshichi is accused of murdering a man in a brawl, he becomes a fugitive and is disowned by his father. The dutiful Osono blames herself and considers taking her own life. (She is regarded as a model of the virtuous stage wife by kabuki audiences, reflecting rigid 19th-century dictates proscribing female behavior that would be considered intolerable today.) However, when the lovers send Otsû to Hanshichi's family home, all soon realize what the lovers intend to do. The child carries a letter in which they ask Osono to look after Otsû and to comfort Hanshichi's parents after the death of such an undutiful son.
This unusual scene incorporates a Shijô-style landscape with ukiyo-e actor portraiture. The contrast between the densely colored figures and the lightly textured hills and trees enhances the dramatic atmosphere, attracting the viewer's gaze to the tragic lovers as the the actors strike their mie (climactic poses or displays: 見得).
The poems are signed by the actor Arashi Rikaku and Rochô.
This impression, in surimono-style, appears to be an uncut chûban diptych, as each half includes the signature of the artist. The vertical fold thus represents the approximate point at which the sheet was intended to be cut in half. As such, this sheet preserves an untrimmed view of what would have been the area formed by the adjoining sides of right and left sheets (where, typically, some of the design would have been lost). It also offers a glimpse of one method by which publishers had their block cutters produce woodblocks from hanshita-e (block designs: 版下絵) based on preparatory copy-drawings supplied by the hikkô (professional copyists who prepared detailed drawings from the artists' sketches). In this instance, the blocks were cut for an ôban-size design that would have been cut in half to make two chûban-size sheets.
This is a distinctly rare and very well-preserved image, for which we have not yet found another impression.
References: IKB-I, no. 1-441; NKE, p. 141