This triptych is an example of a gassaku (collective work: 合作). Here, three artists each designed one of the sheets, with four poets contributing poems and three publishers shouldering the production and distribution. The artist Kunihiro was very closely associated with the publisher of his sheet, Tenmaya Kihei (Tenki), and some scholars have suggested that Kunihiro and Tenki were one and the same.
Keisei ômonguchi (Courtesans at the great gate of the pleasure quarter: けいせい廓大門) was based on Namiki Sôsuke's Ômonguchi yoroigasane first performed in 12/1743. In that version, Shokurô plots to avenge the death of his father at the hands of Shinkurô. The Keisei adaptation was meant, in part, to feature the female characters. The design shown here highlights one of the memorable scenes when the three onnagata (lit., "woman's manner," male actors in female roles: 女方 or 女形) confront one another in the darkness.
The poems have been read and interpreted by Drew Gerstle (see KHO reference below).
Iro fyjaku / miru tabi mashinu / hana no tomo (Deeply colorful / Better each time / This "friend of flowers") by Fujin. The last line refers to the actor Tomokichi, whose "colorful" (sexy) qualities partly define his acting style.
Headnote: "Nakamura Shikin [Karoku] performing Kochô, the little butterfly, reminded me of [the Chinese legend of] Zhuang Zi's dream of butterflies long ago."
Yume ni saae / mitemo ureshiki / kochô ka na (Such joy even to / See it in my dream / Little butterfly) by Sharyû
Kara made mo / na o ba ageha no / kochô ka na (His fame reaches China / Riding the wings of / Little Butterfly) by Kakuichi)
Headnote: "Sawamura Kitô [Kunitarô], too, as the courtesan of Naniwa [Osaka] Bay, was a magnificent success."
Tachi-narabu / naka ni sugurete / ume kaoru (Even in such company / It stands out alone / Scent of the plum blossom) by Rokumatsu.
References: IKBYS-II, no. 25; IKB-I, no. 1-422; KNP-6, p. 96: KHO, no. 257