Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido: No. 55, Kyoto, c. 1833-1834
Ink on Paper
8 3/4 in. x 13 11/16 in. (222.25 mm x 347.66 mm)
This view of Kyoto, from Hiroshige’s most famous series Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō (Tōkaidō Gojūsan-tsugi), launched the genre of landscape woodblock prints. The best-selling series depicted the fifty-three stopping points where travelers could rest, eat and purchase souvenirs along the 323 miles of road between Edo (modern Tokyo) and Kyoto. It also included an image of Edo – the starting point of the journey from the point of view of Edoites like Hiroshige and the people who bought the prints – and of the final destination of Kyoto, the image shown here. This print depicts travelers on a wooden bridge leading into Kyoto, hills colored with dense autumn foliage in the distance. Having traveled the Tōkaidō Road himself, Hiroshige undoubtedly understood the joy and relief travelers felt when they reached the scenic ancient capital.
- Meher McArthur, January 7, 2021
On mat in pencil: Jo XX set 55, n.403. Censor's seal: Kiwame.
Nishiki-e, horizontal oban; colored ink on thin paper.
Color woodblock print with an image of a bridge (The Great Sanjo bridge) spanning a body of still water, with travellers crossing, and mountains in the background.
The destination of the Tokaido journey was Kyoto, the imperial capital since late in the eighth century. Although it later lost its administrative function as a capital to Edo, emperors still reside here, and Kyoto endured as the center of culture, art, learning, Buddhism, and high quality industries such as textiles, lacquer ware, basketry, and other artifacts. Between the two capitals people traveled on foot, taking ten to fifteen days to cover the distance.
Hiroshige depicts the Great Sanjo Bridge crossing the Kamo River---a bridge whose importance is marked by not only its grand scale but also by the quality of its finished details. Bronze finials ornament every fourth post of the balustrade. In the foothills of the Higashiyama Mountains, we see roofs of houses, temples, and pagodas.
All sorts of people are crossing the bridge---hooded ladies with their servants and a woman with a parasol, porters, a heavily laden packhorse. From the other side a daimyo procession approaches. It is a morning with sky and mountains brightened by the sun. The peaceful scene rewards travelers who had endured the long, hard journey.
(ref. “Hokusai and Hiroshige,” p.218 )
Hoeido (Takenouchi Magohachi) seal.
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