The play Tenmangû aiju no meiboku (Love under the plum, pine, and cherry at the heaven filling shrine: 天満宮花梅桜松) appears to be related to, or an adaptation of, the famous puppet and kabuki play Sugawara denju tenarai kagami (Mirror of transmission and learning of Sugawara's Calligraphic Secrets: 菅原伝授手習鑑), which premiered for the puppet theater in 1746. It was based on legends surrounding the life of Sugawara Michizane (845-903: 菅原道真), also known as Kan Shôjô (菅丞相) — a celebrated scholar, poet, statesman, and calligrapher who ran afoul of the ruling Fujiwara (one of the four great clans of Japan, the others being the Tachibana, Minamoto, and Taira). He died in exile, but in 987 was deified as a Tenjin or "heavenly deity" (hence plays about him are called Tenjin mono).
In the main thread of the drama, Fujiwara no Tokihira (Shihei) was a high-ranking courtier plotting to overthrow the emperor. Through deceit he gains Sugawara's trust, then frames him for the conspiracy. (Tokihira reveals the full extent of his evil character in a celebrated and unusual scene called warai no maku or "laughing curtain," in which he utters a cruel laugh as the curtain is drawn.) Sugawara is exiled to Kyûshû, where he finally learns of Tokihira's treachery. After offering his prayers, he becomes a thunder god and sends his spirit back to the capital to kill Tokihira.
There are various connections between the Tenmangû and Sugawara jidaimono ("period pieces" or historical dramas: 時代物). For instance, the "plum, pine, and cherry" in our translation of the Tenmangû title alludes to the triplets Umeômaru, Matsuômaru, and Sakuramaru, respectively, in the Sugawara play. There is also likely a connection between the play's title and both the historical and dramaturgic Sugawara Michizane with respect to the Shinto shrine Kitano Tenmangû (北野天満宮) in Kyoto, which the imperial court built and dedicated to Sugawara Michizane in 986. "Shared" roles between the Tenmangû and Sugawara plays include the two roles in the present Munehiro design: keisei [courtesan, 傾城] Aoyagi-tayû (あをやぎ太夫 who is actually Kobai-hime, 紅梅姫) and Tsutsumibata Jûsaku (堤畑十作).
The large cartouche on the right sheet identifies the play as Aiju no meiboku (愛梅松桜), omitting the first word Tenmangû (天満宮). The high-ranking courtesan Aoyagi-tayû is dressed in a spectacular kimono and obi (sash: 扇). By her side is a kneeling middle-aged attendant, possibly her yarite (female brothel supervisor: 遣手), who holds a chôchin (portable lamp or lantern: 提灯). On the left sheet, an agitated Jûsaku, who wears fashionable robes with shibori (shaped-resist dyeing: 絞り) dot-patterns, is gesturing as he stares intently at Aoyagi. Behind him is an andon (floor lamp: 行灯) and byôbu (floor screen: 屏風) on a raised dais. Straddling both sheets is a small taiko-bashi (drum bridge: 太鼓橋) in front of a large stone ishidôrô (stone lantern: 石灯籠) in a garden.
This impression is quite fine, with pristine colors and extensive application of copper-rich brass, the standard pigment used in ukiyo-e prints to imitate gold.
References: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (11.35989a-b from the William Sturgis Bigelow collection, 1911)