Keisei Soga haru no fujigane (景清曽我賑不尽), possibly meaning "A courtesan and a full enumeration of the lively Soga," was one of many Soga monogatari (Stories about the Soga: 曾我物語). The plot details are unknown to us, but the play surely features the Soga brothers hell-bent on avenging their father's murder in 1193 by Minamoto no Yoritomo (源 頼朝, 1147–1199), founder and first shôgun of the Kamakura shogunate). The saga was popularized in medieval storytelling, dance performance, and later illustrated books, as well as in the Nô, kabuki, and bunraku (puppet: 文楽) theaters. Although endlessly elaborated upon, the vendetta was based on an actual historical incident in which two brothers by the name of Soga, in 1193, killed Kudô no Suketsune, who had murdered their father in 1176. These Soga jidaimono (lit., "period pieces" or historical dramas: 時代物), as quintessential examples of adauchi mono (revenge plays: 仇打ち物), were produced annually for kabuki each New Year. Conflated with Keisei Soga haru no fujigane is the saga of Akushichibyoe Kagekiyo, the historical Heike general Taira no Kagekiyo (平 景清 died 1196), with Ichikawa Ebizô V taking on that role as well in the production illustrated in the Hirosada/Kunikazu diptych.
Taira no Kagekiyo (平景清) was nicknamed "Akushichibyoe" (bad man of the seventh degree: 悪七兵ヘ景清) for killing his uncle, whom he mistook for his enemy, Minamoto no Yoritomo (源 頼朝 1147–99). Kagekiyo's original name was Fujiwara no Kagekiyo (藤原景清), but he was adopted by the Taira and served them loyally for the remainder of his days. He was a formidable warrior, but was captured at the pivotal naval battle at Dan-no-ura (Dannoura no tatakai: 壇ノ浦の戦い) in 1185 when the Genji clan, led by Yoritomo, defeated the Heike forces. Exiled to a cave on Hyûga Island, Kagekiyo died of starvation in 1196.
There were many adaptations of the Kagekiyo saga for both kabuki and bunraku (puppet theater: 文楽), a genre called Kagekiyo mono (plays about Kagekiyo: 景清物). Along with Minamoto no Yoshitsune and the Soga brothers, Kagekiyo forms one of a triumvirate of heroes celebrated in history and legend from the same historical period. All three historical and theatrical figures sparked the imaginations of playwrights and thrilled kabuki audiences.
In this dramatic diptych, Mount Fuji looms over the Soga brothers as a heavy, ominous rain falls. Holding torches, they each wear blue robes patterned with their respective iconic insignia, chidori (plovers: 千鳥) for Soga no Jûrô and chô (butterflies: 蝶) for Soga no Gorô. Presumably, this scene from Act VIII of the play represents Youchi Soga (Soga Brothers' night attack: 夜討曽我), the climactic attack of the Soga Brothers on Yoritomo's hunting camp at the foot of Mt. Fuji.
This deluxe design is a gassaku (collaborative work: 合作) for which Hirosada provided the figures and Kunikazu the background. This is made explicit by the signature mawari Kunikazu ("background by Kunikazu": 廻り國員), a rare instance in which a signature proclaims the specific role performed by the artist in executing a design.
References: IKBYS-IV, no. 509