The play Keisei somewake tazuna (A courtesan's reins dyed in different colors: けいせい染分總), written by Nagawa Harusuke and the superstar actor Nakamura Utaemon III (under his pen name Kanazawa Ryûgyoko), premiered in 1/1822. It was adapted, as were quite a number of other plays, from Koi nyôbô somewake tazuna (Love and a wife's reins dyed in different colors: 恋女房染分手綱) first staged in 1751. The earlier play was itself a revision of Chikamatsu Monzaemon's Tanba yosaku matsuyo no komuro bushi. It has been reported that the accomplished dramatist Harusuke became so enraged at what he believed to be a poorly constructed play that he attacked his co-writer Utaemon with a knife.
The story involves a shop owner and his older brother who stop conspirators from stealing the treasures of the Yurugi daimyô family, and features Sankichi, a tabakokiri (tobacco cutter: 煙草切), who emerges as the hero of the drama.
The snowman represents Daruma, an Indian monk who founded the Ch'an (Zen) sect of Buddhism in the 6th century AD (Zen made its way into Japan in the 12th century). Daruma is often portrayed as a bearded, rotund figure by artists and crafts persons. He remains the subject of popular toys, daruma dolls, tumbler toys that are weighted at the bottom so that when tipped over always revert to an upright position.
Note: This is apparently the only known impression of this design.
Provenance: Okada Isajiro (岡田伊三次郎), a celebrated private Japanese collection not seen in public for more than 70 years until its gradual dispersal starting in the year 2000 — a blockbuster event in the world of kamigata-e; see KAM)
References: IKB-I, p. 98; KNP-6, p. 85; KAM, p. 217(353)