Artist: Utagawa Kunisada
Series: From Contest of Roles : Mirror of “Tenarai Kagami” (hanakurabe tenarai kyô no uchi)
One of ten portraits from Kabuki Sugawara’s Secrets of Calligraphy (Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami). Sakura-maru is one of triplet retainers named for Sugawara’s favorite trees: the pine, matsu: Matsuô-maru, cherry, sakura: Sakura-maru, and the plum, ume: Umeô-maru. Sakura-maru serves Sugawara, Minister of the Right, known as Kan Shôjô and Fujiwara Shihei, Minister of the Left, who was supposed to share power at the imperial court. Matsuô-maru is the retainer of Fujiwara Shihei; Umeô-maru serves for Kan Shôjô, and Sakuramaru for the brother of the emperor, Prince Tokiyo. Sakura-maru consulted with his wife, Yae, and decided to support a rendezvous between Prince Tokiyo and Princess Kariyahime, a daughter of Kan Shôjo. However this was considered as Kan Shôjô’s plot to replace the emperor with Prince Tokiyo, and Kan Shôjô had been sentenced to exile to Kyûshû. Sakura-maru informs Yae of his decision to atone for his mistakes by committing seppuku, to which his father Shirodayû reluctantly agreed by breaking a branch as a sign that Sakura-maru has to die. He kills himself. The cartouche for the title is framed by the things related to Sakura-maru in the story: an open fan designed with a cherry tree, a short knife and its wooden stand for the seppuku ceremony, a rosary, etc. His costume is designed with cherry blossoms.
Publisher: Kogaya Katsugorô
Seal: censor’s seals: Hama Yahei and Magomi Kangeyû; Date seal: 9th month of Rat year (1852), carver’s seal: hori Kokai
Signature: Toyokuni ga