Signed: Kunichika hitsu
Artist's seal: toshidama (in red)
Publisher: Fukuda Kumajirō
Carver: Nisei Watanabe Hori Ei ryū (lower right margin)
"The plot of the play The ambush of the second wife (Uwanari) centres on the theme of jealousy: the spirit of a philandering husband's first wife exacts vengeance on him by entering the body of her daughter. She seeks to punish the man's second wife, in this print, her presence is indicated by the hannya mask, which is typically worn by revengeful female spirits and which has its origins in the Noh theatre."
Quoted from: Time present and time past - Images of a forgotten master: Toyohara Kunichika 1835-1900 by Amy Newland Reigle, p. 130.
The meaning of the uwanari uchi
"This scene of jealous rage and violence on stage refers to the Muromachi practice called uwanari uchi, or 'secondary wife beating,' which describes the violence committed by a man's original legal wife (konami) who had lost her husband's favor and support against a supplanting secondary wife or wives (uwanari). Uwanari uchi was also performed sporadically during the Heian period (794-1185), but it was not until Muromachi that it became a full-blown social practice. A dramatization of uwanari nchi also occurs in Zeami's Kanawa (Iron crown), in which a jealous wife, who has been cast aside by her philandering husband in favor of another woman, seeks to avenge her humiliation by transforming herself into a demon and attacking a pair of dolls, which serve as substitutes for the husband and his new lover. In the end, her supernatural fury is subdued through the efforts of a sage named Abe no Seimei."
Quoted from: Theatricalities of Power: The Cultural Politics of Noh by Steven T. Brown, pp. 62-63.
The Scholten Gallery in New York City gives this summary accompanying their copy of this print:
The actor Ichikawa Danjuro IX (1838-1903) is in the role of the ghost of Kasuga, a vengeful ex-wife, in the play Uwanari (The ambush of the second wife). The play centers on the theme of jealousy, as an estranged and now departed first wife tries to exact revenge on an adulterous former husband. She does so by entering the body of her daughter, to punish both him and his new partner. Danjuro wears a hannya mask, typical kabuki dress to indicate the spirit of a revengeful woman. The hannya archetype has its origins in the more reserved Noh theater.