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Posted by Hans Olof Johansson on August 03, 1998 at 15:04:18:

In Reply to: IS THIS A HIROSHIGE? (PIC) posted by John Montella on July 26, 1998 at 21:47:52:

: Can someone help me with this print. Is this a Hiroshige?
: If so, how do I tell an original from a reprint? Any
: information would be appriciated.

: Thanks,
: J. Montella

It is, indeed, a Hiroshige print: Tamagawa shugetsu (Autumn Moon on the Tama River) from the seríes Edo kinkô hakkei no uchi (From the Eight Views of the Environs of Edo), published in the late 1830s by Kikakudô. According to Howard A Link (Prints by Utagawa Hiroshige in the James A Michener Collection, vol 2, Honolulu 1991), there were two early editions of this series: "equally beautiful despite changes in coloring and the positioning of the kyôka inscriptions". Your print belongs to the first of these versions.

As it is regarded as one of the finest in the series, it has most certainly been reprinted and reproduced hundreds of times after Hiroshige's death, especially during this century. Deciding if your copy is one of these reprints or reproductions, can be an easy task, but it can also be very difficult.

The first thing you should do is to check the signature and the marks in the bottom left corner, outside the part of the print covered by your image. Compare them with the image above. To the left is the circular kiwame seal, and below that the publisher's mark, both printed in red. To the right is Hiroshige's signature. If any of these marks are missing from your print, or has a very different appearance, it is a later reprint or a reproduction.

Next you should check the size of the print. Reprints are often smaller than the originals, and this print should be about 9 x 14' (23 x 35 cm), if it is genuine.

Should your print pass both these tests, odds still are that it is a reprint or a reproduction. Unless you have a long experience in handling Japanese woodblock prints, you should try to find an expert to have a look at it for you. However, you can do one more thing yourself, if you can find a good reproduction of the original edition of the print in a book. Compare your print with this reproduction, line by line. Colour differences are not very important, but if your print and the reproduced original were printed with the same set of woodblocks, there should be an absolute resemblance in every line and shape between the two.

I compared your image with a reproduction of the original print, published in Richard Illing's Japanese Prints (Phaidon Press 1976), and it seems to me that there are obvious differences between them. The resolution of your image isn't good enough for me to be absolutely sure, though.

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