Gotaiheiki Shiroishi banashi (The story of Shiroishi and the chronicles of peace: 碁太平記白石噺) blended two dramas, one based on a failed rebellion in 1651 led by Yui Shôsetsu (1605-51) against the ten-year-old shogun Ietsuna, and the other a vendetta in 1723 carried on by two sisters for six years. Onobu and her courtesan sister, Miyagino of the Daikokuya in Shin Yoshiwara, vow to avenge their father's murderer, a village magistrate named Daishichi Shiga, whose villainy also caused their mother to die from grief. The brothel proprietor, Soroku, urges them to learn martial arts from Uji Jôsetsu (the theatrical stand-in for Yui Shôsetsu). Onobu studies fencing and changes her name to Shinobu. Aided by Jôsetsu, the sisters exact their revenge. (Note: The reading Shiroishi in the play title is sometimes given as Shiraishi.)
Nakamura Matsue III (Tomijûrô II; 1786-1855, a premier onnagata (lit., "woman's manner": 女方 or 女形) or performer of women's roles, was a protege of Nakamura Utaemon III. Born in Osaka, he began acting as Ichikawa Kumetarô in Osaka's children theaters. He took the name Nakamura Sankô I (中村三光) in 1812-13, and Matsue III the following theatrical season (11/1813). He ascended to the illustrious name Tomijûrô II in 1833. Nicknamed "Naniwa no Tayû" (Master of Osaka), he was fine dancer and musician. He was also prone to extravagance in his private life, to such a degree that he violated the government's sumptuary edicts. In 1843 he was exiled from Osaka and banished to the port city of Sakai for nearly two years. He continued to act in smaller theaters in Ise, Kyoto, Nagoya, and Sakai, his career suffering due to inferior venues and fellow actors. He relocated to Edo in 1853, and finally returned to Osaka in January 1855, only to fall ill and die the following month.
This preparatory drawing (gakô: 画稿) was likely intended as part of a triptych, but we have not found a corresponding published print for the design. Single-sheet gakô prepared for ukiyo-e prints published in Kamigata (Kyoto-Osaka area) are very rare, and this one is particularly fine.
References :NKE, pp. 135 and 449