Takemura Sadanoshin is the tragic hero of the play, a master of No drama in the employ of the Yurugi family of Tamba. His daughter, Shigenoi, a maid of the family, falls in love with Date no Yosaku, a retainer of the Yurugi who loses the fortune intended for the young master's betrothal. In saving Shigenoi from disgrace Sadanoshin compromises himself and performs in atonement the No drama, Dojoji. In the denouement Sadanoshin actualizes his No role and commits suicide on stage under the large temple bell.
Ichikawa Ebizo IV (1741-1806), known for a prominent nose and round, beady eyes, was the major kabuki actor of the Kansei period, first acting as Matsumoto Koshiro III and then succeeding to the name Danjuro V in Meiwa 7 (1770). In Kansei 3 (1791) he designated his son Danjuro VI and adopted for himself the name Ebizo IV . In his private life, he was a poet who called himself Hakuen and associated with famous contemporary poets. He retired in Kansei 8 (1796) to lead an elegant life at his villa, Hogoan, until his death in Bunka 3 (1806).
There are three known states of this print. In one the robe is colored yellow and the signature is in the upper left. In another, the robe is orange and the signature is in the upper left. In the third, the robe is orange and the signature is placed lower than in the other two states, nearer to Ebizo's shoulder. The characters sai and sha also differ from those in the two other states. Each of these states also varies in the degree of pale flesh color on the skin or shows that the color block of the robe has been reduced and ends approximately 3mm from the left edge.
For examples of the first type see:
Yoshida, Ukiyo-e taisei, Vol. 8 (Tokyo: Toho Shoin, 1931), pl. 12; Suzuki, "Sharaku", Masterworks of Ukiyo-e (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1968), pl. 80; Yamaguchi, Sharaku no zembo (Tokyo: Tokyo Shoseki, 1994), pl. 25-b; Keyes et al, Dai Sharaku ten (Tokyo: Tobu Museum of Art/NHK, 1995), pl. 25-a
For examples of the second type see:
Vignier and Inada, Kiyonaga, Buncho, Sharaku-Estampes Japonaises... Et Exposées au Musée des Arts Décoratifs en Février 1909, reprinted in 2 vols., (Geneva: Miknoff Reprint, 1973), pl. LXV, no. 264; Yoshida, "Sharaku, Toyokuni", Ukiyo-e taika shusei, Vol. 14 (Tokyo: Taihokaku, 1931), pl. 5; Yamaguchi, "Sharaku", Ukiyo-e Taikei, Vol. 7 (Toyko: Shueisha, 1973); pl. 19; Hillier, Japanese Prints and Drawings from the Vever Collection, Vol. 2 (London: Sotheby Parke Bernet, 1976), no. 598; Lane, Images from the Floating World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978), no. 582; Narazaki and Yamaguchi, "British Museum", Ukiyo-e shuka, Vol. 11 (Tokyo: Shogakukan, 1979), pl. 9; Keyes, Sharaku, portraits d'acteurs (Paris: Huguette Berès, 1980); no. 19; Narazaki, Sharaku, The Enigmatic Ukiyo-e Master (Tokyo, New York and San Francisco: Kodansha International Ltd., 1983), pl. 8; Kikuchi et al, Special Exhibition, Ukiyo-e (Tokyo: Tokyo National Museum, 1984), no. 395; Narazaki, "British Museum II", Ukiyo-e Masterpieces in European Collections (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1988), no. 165; Narazaki, "Museo d'Arte Orientale, Genoa II", Ukiyo-e Masterpieces in European Collections (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1989), pl. 31; Narazaki, "Musée Guimet, Paris, I", Ukiyo-e Masterpieces in European Collections (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1990); Yamaguchi, Meihin soroimono ukiyo-e, Vol. 5, "Sharaku" (Tokyo: Gyosei, 1991), pl. 23; The Mann Collection (Tokyo: Ota Memorial Museum of Art, 1994), pl. 64; Yamaguchi, Sharaku no zembo (Tokyo: Tokyo Shoseki, 1994), pl. 25-a
For examples of the third type see:
Ledoux, Japanese Prints, Sharaku to Toyokuni, in the Collection of Louis V. Ledoux (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950), no. 20; Hillier, Catalogue of the Japanese Paintings and Prints in the Collection of Mr & Mrs Richard P. Gale (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1970), pl. 186; Utamaro and Hiroshige from Honolulu Academy of Arts, from James A. Michener Collection (Tokyo, 1976), no. 47; van Rappard-Boon, Catalogue of the Collection of Japanese Prints, Part II, The Age of Utamaro (Amsterdam: Rijksprentenkabinet, Rijksmuseum, 1979), no. 123; Kabuki Through the Theater Prints, Collection of the Honolulu Academy of Arts, James A. Michener Collection (Tokyo: The Azabu Museum of Arts and Crafts, 1990), pl. 154; Yamaguchi et al, Grabhorn Collection (Tokyo: Bun'yusha, 1995), pl. 93; Keyes et al, Dai Sharaku ten (Tokyo: Tobu Museum of Art/NHK, 1995), pl. 25-b
Thirty-four impressions of this image are known and eighteen are held in the following museums and institutions:
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Fogg Art Museum, Harvard Univarsity, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Gibbes Art Gallery, Charleston; The Art Institute, Chicago; Museum of Art, Cleveland; Museo d'Arte Orientale Edoardo Chiossone, Genoa; Academy of Arts, Honolulu; British Museum, London; Museum and Art Gallery, Maidstone, Kent; Institute of Arts, Minneapolis; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (three impressions); Musée Guimet, Paris; National Museum, Tokyo; Keio Gakuin University, Toyko
Another impression of this print was sold in these Rooms, March 20, 1985, lot 154.