Shigenoi is the tragic heroine of a play about love and loyalty. This print shows the climax of the drama, a scene known as Shigenoi's kowakare (parting from her child). The scene takes place on the departure of a feudal lord's daughter to a distant province to be married. Shigenoi, her maid, meets her long lost young son, a child horseman who had been summoned to entertain the young lady. The son recognizes his mother, Shigenoi, by hearing her name and shows her a cloth amulet case, which Sharaku pictures here in her hand, which his mother had given him at their initial separation. Choking back tears she denies their relationship and departs with her masters, mindful of her ultimate loyalty to them.
The actor who performs this role requires great skill to impart the character's psychological complexity. Iwai Hanshiro IV, famous for his chubby face, was one of the most celebrated female-role actors of the Kansei period.
For another impression in the British Museum, London see Yamaguchi Keizaburo, Sharaku, vol. 7 of Ukiyo-e taikei (Tokyo: Shueisha, 1973), pl. 23; Narazaki Muneshige and Yamaguchi Keizaburo, Daiei hakubutsukan/The British Museum..., vol. 11 of Ukiyo-e shuka (Tokyo: Shogakukan, 1979), pl. 11; Narazaki Muneshige, ed., Daiei hakubutsukan II (The British Museum II), vol. 2 of Hizo ukiyo-e taikan/Ukiyo-e Masterpieces in European Collections (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1987), pl. 212; Yamaguchi Keizaburo, Sharaku no zembo (Tokyo: Tokyo Shoseki, 1994), pl. 21.
Other impressions are in the collections of the Musée National des Arts Asiatiques-Guimet, Paris; Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Art Institute of Chicago; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Nelson Gallery of Art and Atkins Museum, Kansas City; Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst, Köln; Tokyo National Museum; Honolulu Academy of Arts; Grabhorn Collection, San Francisco; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Wien; Kunsthalle, Bremen; Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde, Munich; Josai University, Saitama Prefecture.