Suma no miyako Genpei tsutsuji (Azaleas of the Minamoto and Taira clans in the capital at Suma: 須磨都源平躑躅) premiered as a ningyô jôruri (puppet play: 淨瑠璃) at the Takemoto Theater, Osaka in 1730. Kabuki staged its first version in 1763. The dramatization was based on the Heike monogatari (Tale of the Heike clan: 平家物語) and Genpei seisuiki (Story of the rise and fall of the Heike and Genji during the Genpei wars: 源平盛衰記) — chronicles about the pivotal struggle (1156-1185) between the Minamoto (Genji) and Taira (Heike) clans ending at the battle of Dannoura in western Honshû. The play serves as a prelude to the most famous individual confrontation in samurai legend — the slaying at Ichinotani of the fifteen-year-old Atsumori, son of a Taira general, by the Minamoto general Kumagai no Jirô Naozane (熊谷次郎直実 1141-1208), serving Minamoto no Yoshitsune (1159-89). In the play, Kumagai owes a debt of gratitude to Atsumori's mother, for she had saved Kumagai and his wife from execution 17 years earlier. Having no other way to honor his debt, Kumagai substitutes and sacrifices his own son for Atsumori. This shocking turn of events only delays the inevitable, however, and finally Kumagai must slay Atsumori. Distraught at the loss of his son and his failure to save Atsumori, Kumagai renounces his allegiance to the Minamoto and takes the vows of a Buddhist monk.
This impression nearly qualifies as a deluxe print by virtue of the metallic pigment applied only in the lower part of Atsumori's armor. However, deluxe (surimono-style) impressions are known with extensive metallics on the armor of both protagonists, and on the skirt and bridle of the horse, as well as "shading off" (bokashi, 暈) in the background hills. Thus, this example may be a distinct and collectible one-off printing that should interest the ukiyo-e connoisseur.
References: IKBYS-III , no. 200