How I came to have it:
In the middle 60’s I was studying Kabuki theater at Michigan State University. The mother of the girl I was seeing had been in the Army of the Occupation in Japan at the end of World War II. She purchased it there. The triptych was gifted to me.
The original folder that the work came in has the sellers stamp and a label that states:
“The genuineness of this prints guaranteed by: S. M. Shiba, Miyanoshita, as attested by his seal.”
“GENUINE TOYOKUNI II 1835”
The seal also appears on the back lower corner of each print.
I have had the piece looked at on three occasions by Japanese print experts. The last through a friend in New York was Katherine at Shorten Japanese Art (http://www.scholten-japanese-art.com/gallery.htm). She reconfirmed that this is a scene from a Kabuki play. She added that the sheets are signed TOYOKUNI GA (picture by Toyokuni) and that they bear the date seal of 1861, 3rd month. She also believes it to be the work of TOYOKUNI III, a “rival.”
Artist: Utagawa Kunisada I (Toyokuni III) ( Japanese, 1786 - 1864))
I believe this to be correct. A search found his signature shown here and is the same as presented on each panel.
I also found this to be a scene from Meiboku Sendai Haga (The Disputed Succession) Act 2 Guton (The palace). The play was staged for the first time in the 4th lunar month of 1777 as a 5-act drama written by Nagawa Kamesuki I and Isojii Sosuke, and was produced in Osaka at the Naka no Shibai (“The central stage”). The poison cakes referred to in the play are in the package on the floor in the center panel.
After some hours of searching I came across a print that I believe is from the same play and the same artist. It is in a collection at the Boston Museum of Fine Art. This is a link to that piece. https://collections.mfa.org/objects/486623
There is a pocket on the back of the frame that contains the original packaging and my research information.