The play Eawase taikôki (Chronicle of honor [Hideyoshi] compared in pictures: 絵合太功記) was an adaptation of the tales about Akechi Mitsuhide (明智光秀, 1528-1582), a warlord defeated by Mashiba Hisayoshi (the historical Toyotomi Hideyoshi, 豊臣秀吉, 1537- 1598). It is one of the so-called Taikôki mono ("plays about the meritorious prince," 太功記物), jidaimono (lit., "period piece" or historical drama: 時代物) concerning the civil wars of the late sixteenth century and the ascension of Toyotomi Hideyoshi (in this drama renamed Mashiba Hisayoshi), who ruled Japan from 1685 to 1603, until he was finally defeated by Tokugawa Ieyasu. (During the Edo period there were upwards of thirty puppet dramas on this theme. Add to that the kabuki variants and you have some idea of the widespread and persistent popularity of the tales.) Toyotomi, born of an undistinguished lineage as the son of a peasant foot-soldier named Yaemon, became a renowned warrior-general and politician. He is considered Japan's second great unifier in a series of three warlords — Oda Nobunaga (織田信長 1534-82), Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu (the first shogun in the Tokugawa lineage, 徳川家康 1543-1616) — who gradually unified Japan after nearly 140 years of civil war (c. 1467 - c. 1603; called the "Age of civil war," Sengoku jidai: 戦国時代).
The pose or (mie, 見得) taken by Ichizô is one of the standard but effective kata (conventionalized, fixed forms, 型) encountered in kabuki. Stretching and placing one leg on a lower step and counterbalancing that gesture with a firm grip on a pole helps to express the readiness of the warrior in an imminent confrontation (or a struggle already underway).
Our impression is finely printed and retains excellent color. Very few impressions of this design are known.
References: Ritsumeikan University Art Research Project (arcUP8130)