Re: Set of 53 Woodblock Prints

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Posted by John Fiorillo on January 17, 2003 at 10:04:07:

In Reply to: Set of 53 Woodblock Prints posted by Bill Lewis on January 17, 2003 at 05:37:41:


How interesting that you have the wrapper for the set (they rarely survive)! It shows a lively standard bearer who would have been part of a daimy˘'s (feudal lord's) retinue traveling along the T˘kaid˘ Road.

You have an almost complete set of the following:

Artist: Hiroshige
Series: T˘kaid˘ gojűsan tsugi (Fifty-three Post-stations along the Eastern Sea Road)
Format: chűban
Date: circa 1838-1840

This is the so-called "half-block Ky˘ka T˘kaid˘" named after the poems, 'ky˘ka' or "playful verses," that appear on each sheet, and for their size, two chűban images cut into a single ˘ban block and then separated after printing. Interestingly, there were 56 designs in this series instead of the usual 55 (that is, 53 post stations plus the terminus at Nihonbashi, Edo, and the Sanj˘bashi in Kyoto), the extra design here being the Imperial Palace in Kyoto, presumably added to use the extra space in the half block not already cut for any of the other standard 55 designs.

The station you have shown us is called 'Seki' and the scene is the arrival of the retinue of a daimy˘ at a government post station (his yellow 'kago' or palanquin can be partly seen as it is being carried by attendants who are just about to disappear behind the station house). Lower-ranking attendants bow in his direction. The white curtains in front and the gray curtains at the rear left are decorated not with the daimy˘'s or post-station's emblem, as has been assumed by some, but with a version of one of the artist Hiroshige's diamond seals, turned 45 degrees and thus becoming a rectangle. The poem is signed by Morinoya Mikage.

There are many books and articles on Hiroshige and his various T˘kaid˘ series, so you should be able to find more information about this subject.

There is obvious off-setting in the color blocks (most noticeable in the red series cartouche at the upper right, but evident throughout the design as well), so I assume this is a later (perhaps very late) impression (I have not compared it to any early, original impressions of this scene).


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