Munehiro, Chokichi and Yoshibei in the play Ume no Yoshibei

Hasegawa Munehiro (active. 1848 - 1867) Chokichi and Yoshibei in the play Ume no Yoshibei, ca 1850. Chuban.

A rare print by the artist Munehiro of two actors from the drama Ume no Yoshibei. Ume no Yoshibei is a Robin Hood character or otokadate. These were street gangs, the forerunners of the modern day yakuza, who were said to protect people from lawless samurai. In the play, Yoshibei murders a young man for money and during the fight, Yoshibei’s finger is bitten off.  The victim turns out to be Chokichi, the brother of Yoshibei’s wife Kuomi. Kuomi finds Yoshibei’s finger in her dead brother's mouth and realises that he has been murdered by her husband. She kills herself in grief, having cut off her own finger. The white herons and black crows on the kimono of Ume no Yoshibei symbolize innocence and bad luck respectively. This pattern immediately identifies the character of Yoshibei.

Little is known of Munehiro; he was an Osaka artist, a pupil of Hasegawa Sadanobu (from whom he took his first name) and he produced a small number of single and multi-sheet theatre prints. This print shows the influence both of Sadanobu and Hirosada (of whom he is thought to be a pupil). Munehiro’s work is rare and can be expensive. This piece is unbacked and in surprisingly good condition despite that. The colour is very fine - there is very nice oxidation on the orange of Chikochi’s robe, and the impression is fine also. There is minor scuffing to the bottom right corner.

25cm x 18cm.