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 the real-life 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.
Sadanobu's composition relies on repeated curves — Uesugi's bent torso, the sheathed sword, and the leaning tree all follow related trajectories. The obi (sash) and lower half of the kimono are rather ornate for a male role. Note, also, near Uesugi's right hip, the hanging red-and-gold lacquer inrô (lit., "seal basket," 印籠), a container of several interlocking sections that was suspended by means of a cord looped over the obi and secured by a netsuke (small carved object, 根付). Although inrô were common in real life, they are surprisingly scarce in Osaka actor prints.
The inscription in the blue fan cartouche mentions feeling happy about the spring weather: possibly Uino shi sa / mone ka hi mo haru / no tenki kana or perhaps Ureshi-sa mo / ne ka himo haru no / tenki kana (嬉しさもねかひも春の天気哉), signed by Hizuru ("Flying Crane," 飛鶴).
Note: The print is not as soiled as the photo might suggest (i.e., this is photographic artifact).
References: HSH, no. 65; KNP-VI,, p. 427