Keisei yanagi zakura (けいせい楊柳櫻), written by Tatsuoka Mansaku and Chikamatsu Tokusô, premiered in 1793. It was the first play in a series of "Yanagizawa dispute plays" (Yanagizawa sôdô mono: 柳沢騒動物) to dramatize events about Yanagizawa Yoshiyasu (1658-1714), an exceptionally influential advisor to the fifth shogun, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi (1646-1709). After a successful beginning in governance, Tsunayoshi began to rely on Yanagizawa, a samurai who became Tsunayoshi's most powerful minister for two decades and whom he made a daimyô (lit., "great name" = ruler of a domain: 大名) of Sanuki and Kôfu in 1701. When the shogun's lax rule resulted in a devalued currency and increased taxes, Yanagizawa allowed his personal ambition to sway his judgment, failing to intervene. Tsunayoshi became more erratic and issued shôrui awaremi no rei ("edicts of compassion for living beings"), most notoriously extending protection to dogs and earning him the nickname Inu-kubô ("Dog Shogun"). The end came when the shogun's wife, Mi-Daidokoro, assassinated him and then committed suicide. Yanagizawa was blamed for many of Tsunayoshi's transgressions.
This is a well-designed tableau of actors. The canopy of flowering cherry blossoms links all four sheets, and the repeated diagonals of the two onnagata (lit., "women's manner" or actors in female roles: 女方 or 女形) in nearly identical poses adds to the harmony of the composition, as does the water behind the actors stretching across three sheets. This finely made tetraptych gives credit to the printer in a seal reading suri Tamizô (printed by Tamizô:スリ民蔵) on the far right sheet.
It is very difficult to find this tetraptych complete and with very good color, as here.
References: IKBYS-III, no. 30; HSH, no. 64; KSTZ, no. 123