Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) Fifty-three Parallels for the Tokaido Road (Tokaido gojusan tsui) Station 12: Mishima, 1845-46. Oban.
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The Tokaido Road was the great artery connecting the two most important centres of Japan - Edo (Tokyo) and Kyoto (the Imperial centre). In the 1830’s the easing of travel restrictions opened the country to the business of trade and to the purely inquisitive and this new demand was met by artists such as Hokusai and Hiroshige who made wonderful prints of the entire route, punctuated at each of its fifty-three post stations. These series established a genre of Tokaido Road prints, some of which appear in this collection. This print is from one of the best of these series and is by the landscapist Hiroshige I.
The series is fascinating in that it was a collaboration of the three great artists of the day: Kuniyoshi, Hiroshige and Kunisada. The exact number of prints is unknown, but it is assumed currently that they produced 30, 20 and 8 respectively. The series is a precursor to one of the very best series of prints of the 19th century - A Comparison of the Ogura One Hundred Poets of 1847 in which the same three artists collaborated on a series celebrating the great Japanese poems. There are many compositional similarities to the two series… the unusual, aberrant cartouches, and the one third, two thirds division of the oban page. Both series were attempts by artists and publishers to circumvent the recently imposed censorship laws for woodblock prints.
Hiroshige illustrates the twelfth station at Mishima. A group of dancers parade across the page, one with a lucky God mask, carrying rice flour; others carrying implements and household items. The Mishima Festival is still held today and was traditionally held on the 6th Day of the first month. Mishima is not only an important post station, but also an important Shinto shrine. The heart shaped cartouche holds a sketch view of the landscape and written information and the right hand black cartouche the title.
The prints from this series are usually folded. The impression, colour and condition are very fine. There is a copy of this print in the MFA in Boston.
Published by Kojimaya Jubei.
36cm x 25cm.