Utagawa Toyokuni I is known primarily as a designer of woodblock prints known as ukiyo-e, or pictures of the floating world, because they often depicted urban pleasure districts. The most famous denizens of these districts—actors, courtesans, writers, and wealthy merchants—feature prominently in portrait prints made by ukiyo-e artists. However, this group of artists rarely painted formal portraits, and depictions of samurai, like this example, were extremely unusual. Although the samurai’s identity is now unknown, he clearly was an important figure. His facial features are carefully rendered with extremely fine brushstrokes, and the quality of the pigments used in the work—rich cobalt blue shot with mica as well as gold pigment, which delineates the folds of the fabric—demonstrate that this was a very expensive commission.