The text of the play Keisei Omonguchi (Courtesan at the great gate of the pleasure quarter, けいせい廓大門) has apparently not survived, but it seems to be an adaptation of ômonguchi yoroi kasane, (Armored assault at the entrance to the great gate, 大門口鎧襲) written by Namiki Sôsuke in 12/1743, when it premiered at the ônishi Theater in Osaka. It features a complicated saga in which Shôkurô plots against Shinkurô, the murderer of his father. As the names and aliases on the present design suggest, some of the characters took on disguises and false identities during the intrigues fueling the plot twists.
This composition of this made-to-order ("by special, request, ôju, 応需) is extraordinary, with its six sheets stacked in two rows. The sheet at the top right has a cartouche with the play title Keisei ômonguchi (契情廓大門). The crests (mon: 紋) decorating the highly unusual border are those belonging to the actors or their lineages, for example, the pair of crossed scrolls of the Nakamura actors.
Moreover, it is an unusual mitate-e (analog print: 見立絵) in which the actors and their roles have been jumbled up so that some of the pairings do not match the kabuki performance record. There is, indeed, a production of Keisei ômonguchi for 1/1862 in the Kabuki nenpyô (Chronicle of kabuki) — see KNP reference below — whose date would be consistent stylistically with Yoshitaki's early period. Yet only some actors/roles correspond with Yoshitaki's assignments. For example, in KNP, Arashi Kichisaburô III is listed as having performed four different roles, but none of them are Akujirô Yoshizumi (as assigned by Yoshitaki), and one of these four roles, Ise Shinkurô Nagauji, is shown in Yoshitaki's print as being played by Jitsukawa Ensaburô. Yet there is a match for Onoe Tamizô II, who is indeed identified in both the print and KNP with Mino Shôkurô. So far, scholars have assigned the 1/1862 production to Yoshitaki's design, but a full explanation of the contradictions remains elusive. Thus Yoshitaki's hexaptych has been catalogued as mitate-e, meaning an imaginary performance of the particular cast/roles.
A stacked (two-row) hexaptych was a rare compositional format both in Edo and Kamigata printmaking. For that reason alone, collectors eagerly seek out such works. Added to that rarity is the eye-catching quality of a deluxe edition and the fairly early date for a Yoshitaki design, and you have a yakusha-e of notable distinction.
For other designs by Yoshitaki for this same performance, see YST18 and YST23.
For more about this artist, see Yoshitaki Biography.
References: IKBYS-V, no. 136 (Z0455-423, 1-5); KNP-7, p. 175