Re: album-backing and trimming

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Posted by Pat Collins on May 12, 2002 at 02:35:13:

In Reply to: Re: album-backing and trimming posted by John Fiorillo on May 10, 2002 at 04:23:41:


We have just succeeded in saying the EXACT same thing in different words. Congratulations!

: Pat,

: I am familiar with the Pins book. In fact, if you look on page 9, you will see in the introduction by the scholar Roger Keyes that he specifically mentions the use of 2 boards pieced together to make large, wide upright prints. Only very early scroll or wide-pillar prints were made from single large blocks, whereas the "birth" of hashira-e was related to the separation of the two boards used to make such prints in the 1740s. Keyes speculates that the publishers were either saving money by using two boards, or were forced to do so because larger boards were no longer available in whatever woods they were using. I think the cost factor was the more likely one, as large wide boards must have been rising in cost by the mid eighteenth century.

: Pins follows the lead of Keyes in his own commentary (pp. 30-32), where he argues not against the joining of 2 separate blocks to produce the original wide-pillar print, but against an earlier (now discounted) theory by Robert T. Paine that the narrower version came first and the wider version later (by adding a block).

: You can also find examples in Clark, et al. (The Dawn of the Floating World; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2002), where the authors also accept the judgment that the wide-pillar prints of the 1740s were made from two separate blocks joined together.

: There may be some supporting, circumstantial evidence for the use of 2 boards from the surviving examples of wide-pillar prints. In some cases the separations probably caused the blocks to move to uneven levels because the depth of the pigments differs on the opposing sides of the "cracks" in the designs. It would be less likely (although not impossible) for this to happen if the original design had been made from a single board.

: One other point might be made for the sake of accuracy, although I think we more or less agree on this: Edo-period "trimming" of a pair of boards (i.e., removal of one warped or separated board) is not the same as the trimming of an already published print, either in terms of aesthetic (and monetary) value or art historical assessment. With the former, Edo-period publishers and their public accepted the release of later edition prints from surviving blocks as genuine re-issues, presumably because the resulting narrower format was a novelty and the remaining design was still attractive and meaningful. In other words, Edo-period connoisseurs would have viewed the prints re-issued from single boards as "second-state originals" because the publisher judged them to be worthy of publication. However, in the case of a trimmed print, an art object already released to the public has been damaged or diminished from its original state. No doubt, if we had the choice between a wide-pillar print or its later single-board cousin, we would choose the original, but the difference in terms of the publisher's intent is quite different when compared with the reasons for after-publication trimming of prints.

: John

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