Stone Bridge (石橋), a reference to the bridge in the Nô play Shakkyô, involves a traveler who falls asleep beside a stone bridge and dreams of a lion dancing among peonies. The lion dance appeared in kabuki possibly as early as the late seventeenth century, although the earliest surviving example appears to be dated 1734. Afterwards many variations of the dance were performed, including a lion dancing with peonies, a maiden possessed by the spirit of a lion mask, a lioness and her cub dancing together, and a lion tormented by butterflies. Each dance ends with the actor in a lion headdress waving an impressively long mane back and forth. The genre of lion dances (shishi mai) is called shakkyô mono (stone-bridge pieces: 石橋物) and derive from ancient gigaku (伎楽) dances.
Very little is known of this artist who signed as Shunchô (春朝). He was one of several printmakers using the artist name "Shunchô," each with different kanji for the "chô" (see, for example, HSO02, signed Shunchô 春頂 for the earlier name of Hokushô). The present artist was a pupil of Gatôken Shunshi and worked circa in the late 1820s-early 1830s.
Onoe Tamizô performs the dynamic hair-washing scene (kami arai: 髪洗い) from a kabuki adaptation of the Nô play Shakkyô. In this production Tamizô performed nine roles through quick-changes (hayagawari: 早替) of costume and acting/vocal styles (also considered a type of henge-mono or transformation piece: 変化物). These displays of acting and dancing skills were great crowd pleasers in the kabuki world. Prints for other roles in Tamizô's performance were designed by Gakôken Shunshi and another of Shunshi's pupils, Gayûken Shunsei.
Provenance: This impression is from the Haber Collection (illustrated in Schwaab, Osaka Prints, 1989, no. 116, where it is featured prominently on page 131). Prints from this collection are admired for their fine color preservation, and often for their rarity, as with this design.
References: OSP, no. 116; NKE, p. 570