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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Hiroshige Ukiyo-e View Of The Tokaido

The image above is an ukiyo-e I own - a Japanese woodblock print - originally created by Hiroshige Ando (surname first), a master artist who lived between 1797 and October 12 1858.

He was born Andō Tokutarō (安藤 徳太郎) east of Edo-jo (Edo castle) in the Yaesu area of Edo-shi (Edo City), which  is present-day Tokyo.

Fact or legend, Hioroshige may have been inspired to become an ukiyo-e artist after seeing the artwork of ukiyo-e great Hokusai, whose seminal Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji were published in 1832, the same year that Hiroshige began to devote all of his time to art. Until that time, he was a fireman - a low-level of samurai - in the Edo-jo, much like his father before him.

What you see above is a scene from The Fifty-Three Stations Of The Tokaido (Tokaido Gojusan Tsugi Meisho Dzuye). Now, when I purchased this artwork 21 years ago, the first time I saw the piece a week earlier, I was skeptical. I had heard of this particular ukiyo-e series before - it was that famous - but all of those prints were landscape (horizontal)... this one was a portrait (vertical) in design.

So I spent a week asking around. Surprisingly enough, common everyday people (like myself) knew about what I was asking and provided me with decent information.

I was told that this was a later series done by the same artist - same stations, just different scenes.

What I didn't know was that Hiroshige made many different sets of this famous series, including:
Hoeido Edition (1831-1834); Kyoka Edition (Late 1830s); Gyosho Edition (1841-1842); Pairs Edition (Mid 1840s); Aritaya Edition (1844-1848); Reisho Edition (ca.1850); Kichizo Edition (ca.1850); Jimbutsu Edition (1852); Fujikei Edition (1852); Tate-e Edition (1855, The Vertical Tokaido); Tokaido by Two Brushes (1857); and Tokaido Harimaze Zuye (Ibasen).

Guess which one I have? That's right. The ukiyo-e above is print #40, the Chiryū-juku station of the Tokaido Tate-e edition from 1855 - the Vertical edition.

Although known as the 53-Stations of The Tokaido, there were 55 drawings in the set published by Tsutaya done in the Oban tateye (vertical) format.

My certificate of authenticity for this particular ukiyo-e.

The station itself, Chiryū-juku (池鯉鮒宿 Chiryū-shuku) was actually the 39th of the 53 stations of the Tōkaidō, and is located in present-day Chiryū in Aichi-ken (Aichi Prefecture), Japan.

The station itself was 330 kilometers (210 miles) from Nihonbashi, the start of the Tōkaidō highway, and thus, for the average traveler, Chiryū-juku would have been reached in 10 days.

Regarding my ukiyo-e... the image above is missing the lower edging of the portrait, owing to not having a scanner large enough. However... my actual ukiyo-e does indeed have the proper sizing, and is, in fact, a damn fine example of this series, with a bright whiteness to the cherrywood paper.

What's it's value? No fricking idea? 

And there you have it!
Andrew Joseph

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