Utagawa Kunisada (歌川国貞) / Toyokuni III (三代豊国) (artist 1786 – 01/12/1865)
View of Nihonbashi (Nihonbashi no zu: 江戸日本橋之図) from the chuban series Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō Road (Tōkaidō gojūsan tsugi no uchi: 東海道五十三次之内)
Signed: ōju Kōchōrō Kunisada (応需香蝶楼国貞)
Publisher: Sanoya Kihei
Censor's seal: kiwame
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - publishers Sanoya Kihei and Moriya Jihei
National Diet Library - no publisher's seal
Museum für angewandte Kunst, Vienna
Virginia Museum of Fine Art - in black and white
Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art - they date their copy to 1836
Bryn Mawr - publishers Sanoya Kihei and Moriya Jihei
Chester Beatty Library
The Spencer Museum of Art
Ackland Museum of Art, University of North Carolina This is number one in the series. The curatorial files of the Museum für angewandte Kunst in Vienna say: "It is not entirely clear whether there was a collaboration between Kunisada and Hiroshige, who had already become famous through his Tōkaidō series, or whether Kunisada “borrowed” the representations and changed them. It can be assumed, however, that the latter is the case, since Hiroshige's signature does not appear in any of the pictures. In 1852 Kunisada again used Hiroshige's Tōkaidō pictures as the background for a series with actors. Around the same time as the series here, a Tōkaidō series of Eisen was also created with Tōkaidō stations in the background and separated by clouds, beauties in the foreground... Here is the starting point of the road: Nihonbashi 日本 橋. The representation differs from that of Hiroshige only in a few details. So marches, for example, over the bridge not the head of a daimyō train (daimyō gyōretsu 大名 行列), but some workers pulling a heavily loaded cart. Kunisada chose Fuji as the background. The line of the mountain continues in the soaring paper kites. In the foreground a woman with a closed fan in her hand. Her red kimono is decorated with clouds and blooming plum blossom branches (ume). It is noticeable that she does not wear any hair accessories."
In Tokaido Landscapes: The Path from Hiroshige to Contemporary Artists, 2011, #35, p. 47, speaking of the original Hiroshige print it says in a text by Sasaki Moritoshi: "Setting off on the long journey on the Tōkaidō before daybreak - the very beginning of the day. The scene is also the start of a lengthy series of fifty-five prints. To create a sense of tension appropriate to this threefold beginning, Hiroshige chose a memorable scene: a daimyo's procession appears over the crest of the bridge, depicted straight on. A solemn atmosphere dominates the scene as even the fish peddlers appear to have fallen into silence. But the presence of the dogs provides a sense of relief, superbly balancing tension with ease."
In Masterworks of Ukiyo-e: Hiroshige, the 53 Stations of the Tōkaidō by Muneshige Narazaki. 1969, p. 29 it says: "The time is presumably four o'clock in the morning, when the wooden gates of the district (the kido), which frame the composition on either side, were first opened after having been closed for the night."
It is interesting that while the gates to the city appear in both the Hiroshige and Kunisada prints, Mt. Fuji only appears in the print by the latter artist.
Hiroshige did two different variations on this scene which is different than the Kunisada version shown here. Both Hiroshige prints are illustrated in Hokusai and Hiroshige: Great Japanese Prints from the James A. Michener Collection, Honolulu Academy of Arts on pages 160 and 161. Kunisada kept the fishmongers of one version in his rendition. The accompanying text reads in the above mentioned volume: "In 1602 the Tokugawa shogunate erected this arched wooden bridge to span the Nihonbashi River, one of many small tributaries that empty into the Sumida River. The district around this bridge became one of the most vital commercial and transportation centers in Edo. Stores, wholesalers, storage buildings, fish markets, and houses lined the riverbanks, to which commercial goods wee transported by boats. Two major highways - the Tōkaidō Road on the Pacific Ocean side, and the Kiso Road that traversed rugged mountainous regions - converged and diverged here, connection Edo and Kyoto."
Illustrated in a small color reproduction in Kunisada's Tokaido: Riddles in Japanese Woodblock Prints by Andreas Marks, Hotei Publishing, 2013, page 62, T24-01.
Sanoya Kihei (佐野屋喜兵衛) (author)
landscape prints (fūkeiga 風景画) (author)