Collaborative works (gassaku, 合作) were popular in kamigata-e. designed three of the portraits, while Baikôsai Shunkei (梅好齋春敬) contributed the image at the upper right. These two artists were possibly students of Shunbaisai Hokuei. So far as can be documented, the present sheet is the only known print bearing a Hokuyô signature. Baikôsai Shunkei is also a very rarely encountered artist.
The suggested date of 11/1833 is based on the return of Shikan II after six years in Edo (fall 1827 to fall 1833). Further support for the idea of a special occasion explains why koma were used as a motif: Nakamura Utaemon IV was the first actor to use the yagô (house or guild name, 屋号) Narikomaya instead of the usual Kagaya (加賀屋) for his acting lineage. This new yagô was related to a gift made by the Edo superstar Ichikawa Danjûrô IV (四代目 市川團十郎) to Nakamura Utaemon I when he was on tour in Edo — a beautiful costume decorated with a Chinese chess-piece pattern (koma in Japanese). The yagô of Ichikawa Danjûrô IV was Naritaya. Thus, Narikomaya (成駒屋) was created using the ideograms koma and nari, the first ideogram of Naritaya.
NOTE: Related to the dating of this gassaku print, Taira Kiyomori was a role in Ichinotani futaba gunki (Battle chronicle of two young leaves at Ichinotani: 一谷嫩軍記), 11/1833. Fujiya Izaemon was a role in Yûgiri nagori no shôgatsu (夕霧名残の正月) and Kuruwa Bunshô (Love letter from the pleasure quarter, 廓文章); Nuregami Chôgorô (濡髦蝶五郎) was a role in Futatsu chôchô kuruwa nikki (Diary of two butterflies from the licensed quarters: 双蝶々曲輪日記) from 11/1833.
A paraphrase of the text reads:
Playing with sparrows, two birds [the actors] ascend, to Naniwa Bay they fly, and return in the evening. To the master Shikan Kanjaku they pay their respects. Wearing the kabuki sparrow crest, they return to the Kado Theater.
Kanjaku ni nobori Naniwa zue saku ya yo fu / \ kaeri hana ume no shishô e matsu suku ni Shiba Kanjaku no kaemon de kikoku o matsu no waka Mitori 其若 Take no kyôgen omo kyôsha no yari no mukau mi su keima ni no tsute to fushi-ba kingin no myôga nite hisha no ko toku no dôchû wa tsuno
signed 梅 with a eye kakihan（目)
This is a rare design. At present, we know of only one other impression in a private collection.