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Views of Edo Japan

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Ando Hiroshige (aka Hiroshige), Japanese, (1797–1858)
One Hundred Famous Views of Edo: 62, Komagate Temple, Azuma Bridge, 1857
Ink on Paper
13 3/8 in. x 8 15/16 in. (339.73 mm x 227.01 mm)


Object Type: Print
Technique: Wood-block Printing
Creation Place: Asia, Japan
Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. James W. Johnson
Accession Number: 46.1.109


Alternate Title: Meisho Edo hyakkei: Komagatado, Azumabashi

Bibliography
Smith II, Henry D. and Amy G. Poster.  Hiroshige 1797-1858  One Hundred Famous Views of Edo.  New York:  George Braziller, Inc., 1986.

Marks
On mat in pencil: Hiroshige 100 Views of Edo #62 Komakatado Jo X 85. Censor's seal: Aratame and date seal (Mi-sho).

Medium
Nishiki-e, vertical oban; colored ink on paper.

Object Description
Color woodblock print with an image of a bird flying above a small town and body of water, in light rain.

We have moved another half-mile up the Sumida, now looking west to the Honjo district, with part of Azuma Bridge visible to the far left.  Komakata Hall, of which a section may be seen in the lower left corner, was a square temple building near the river, at the site of the original front gate of Sensoji Temple (now Kaminari Gate farther to the north).  The hall housed an image of Kannon crowned with a horse's head (Bato Kannon), and one theory suggests the offering of horse images (ema) as the etymology of Komakata ("colt shape").  Komakata Hall survives today, rebuilt in ferroconcrete and moved about seventy yards north from its Edo location.

The evocative qualities of this print are concentrated in the sky.  It is the rainy season of the Fifth Month (June to early July), a time of overcast skies and persistent light rain.  Here, against the blue-gray pattern of the wood grain, are cast wisps of clouds, their forms determined individually by the hand of the printer.  Sparse streaks of rain, faintly printed in glinting mica, trace the sky.  As with all other movement in the scene, they descend from right to left.

What most attracts our attention are the two balanced images that stand out against the sky.  The red flag symbolizes rouge, for this is the sign of a cosmetics dealer; given the location, the shop must be Hyakusuke, just west of Komakata Hall.  The bird is a hototogisu, a small cuckoo that migrates to Japan at this time of year, occasionally passing through the city on the way to its mountain habitat.  The hototogisu was known for its sharp cry, likened to the tearing of cloth, a cry associated in poetry with dawn and with loneliness.

The placement of the hototogisu above Komakata Hall is no accident: it would have immediately brought to the Edo mind a famous love poem composed by the celebrated Takao of the Yoshiwara (although we do not know precisely which of the several successive courtesans who bore that name): "Are you now, my love, near Komataka?  Cry of the cuckoo!"  (Kimi wa ima / Komakata atari / hototogisu).  The image is that of morning, and the courtesan's lover (reputed in later legend to have been the lord of Sendai, celebrated in kabuki for a liaison with Takao II) is on his way back to Edo.  Lonely and confined, she hears the piercing cry of the hototogisu, staccato like the name Komakata, and thinks, "Where is he by now, perhaps as far as the boat landing at Komakata?"  The imagery of the poem is reinforced in Hiroshige's vision by the gray and rainy sky, by the wisps of clouds, and by the solitary red flag, a mark of lingering passion.

Publisher
Uoei (Uo-ya Eikichi) seal.

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