Meisaku kiriko no akebono (名作切籠曙) was written by Chikamatsu Tokusô (1751-1810), a disciple of Chikamatsu Hanji (1725-1783). The play, premiering in 1801 at the Naka no shibai, was one of the sewamono (domestic dramas) for which Tokusô was admired. After working in the puppet theater, Tokusô eventually became a playwright for the kabuki theater, where he pioneered innovative ways of bringing contemporary news and events to the stage, as well as modernizing old plays and adapting yomihon ("books for reading," a fiction genre flourishing in Kamigata, featuring lengthy stories filled with romance and heroic figures, plus a dash of didacticism).
This design was issued just after the start of the Tenpô kaikaku ("Tenpô Reforms"), edicts that in 7/1742 banned, among other things, actor prints or published stories associated with kabuki. Presumably, the blocks had been cut before the edicts actually took effect and so were allowed to be used in commemoration of Meisaku kiriko no akebono when the play was staged on the fifth day of the eighth month. Within a few weeks, Osaka printmaking came to a virtual halt, finally to resume in early 1847 (when actors' names were almost always omitted for years afterwards to comply with the letter of the law).
The poem reads, Yukitake mo sorowa nu odori issho kana (The kimono doesn't fit me — a dance costume).
The uchiwa (rigid fan) and banner bear the mon (crest) of the Sawamura family of actors. The artist's seal (see detail at right) remains unread.
This is an exceptional actor portrait of great charm, preserved in near-pristine condition.
References: IKB-I, no. 3-87; KNP-6, p. 457