signed Ichiyusai Kuniyoshi ga with artist's kiri seal, censors' seals Mera and Murate, ca. 1850, 3rd month
oban tate-e triptych 14 1/8 by 29 1/8 in., 36 by 74 cm
The actor Bando Hikosaburo IV (Bando Kamezo I, 1800-1873) is in the role of Taira no Munekiyo, the actor Ichikawa Manakotama I is in the role of Genkuro Yoshitsune, the actor Ichikawa Dannosuke V (d. 1864) is in the role of midai (wife of a nobleman) Fuji no Kata, and the actor Onoe Kikujiro II (1814-1875) is in the role of Kumagai nyobo (wife) Sagami from the Kumagai Jin'ya (Kumagai's Camp) scene of the play Ichinotani futaba gunki (The Chronicle of the Battle of Ichi no Tane), performed at the Kawarasaki Theater in the 3rd month of 1850.
The historical battle of Ichitani proved to be a major victory of the Minamoto clan, led by their general Minamoto no Yoshitsune (1159-1189), against their Taira rivals. In the depicted scene, the battle has just passed, and the collected characters are considering its consequences. Yoshitsune, the victorious general, recognizes Munekiyo as the man who many years ago saved his life. Munekiyo admits that this is true, but insists that he regrets having done so, as Yoshitsune is now prepared to bring about the downfall of the Taira clan. To show his gratitude, Yoshitsune presents Munekiyo with the box, depicted here on his back, containing the armor of a thought-to-be-deceased Taira warrior, Atsumori. To everyone's surprise, it is not just the armor but Atsumori himself contained within. Yoshitsune gives the box to Munekiyo and sends the two men on their way, preserving the Taira name and repaying a long held obligation.