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HIROSHIGE Japanese Woodblock Print BLOSSOMS ON THE TAMA RIVER 1856

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HIROSHIGE Japanese Woodblock Print BLOSSOMS ON THE TAMA RIVER 1856

HIROSHIGE

Blossoms on the Tama River Embankment

Number 42 from the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

Date: originally published 2/1856, this pre-war edition from recarved wood blocks
Size: oban, approx. 10.5" x 15.75"
Condition: VG, minor margin flaws,  slightly trimmed bottom margin, otherwise fine
Impression: Fine, nice woodgrain visible in sky area, solid key lines, excellent registration and surface texture
Color: Fne, deep saturated color and excellent bleed through to verso
Documentation: One Hundred Famous Views of Edo Brazillier, 1986, print 42 

THE TAMA RIVER shown here is actually the Tama River Aqueduct, which carried much of the drinking water for the city of Edo along a 30-mile course from the upper reaches of the Tama River at Hamura. This view is just west of the terminal of the aqueduct at the Yotsuya Barrier, where the water was led underground through stone channels and wooden pipes to a complicated network of wells within the western and southern sectors of the city.

Hiroshige's springtime view vividly conveys a freshness and vitality wholly beefitting this lifeline of the city. The cherry trees seen here were planted along much of the embankment of the aqueduct in the 1730s, not only for their beauty, but also as a practical way to strengthen the banks with the root system and to keep the water pure through the allegedly antitoxic poweres of the leaves and petals. To the left under the cherry trees (which seem greatly exaggerated in size), large numbers of citizens are enjoying the view, including a large organized party of ladies with parasols. Behind to the left is the entrance to one of the smaller samurai estates that lined the road here; its location is just about where the Shinjuku (west) entrance to Shinjuku Gyoen may be found today. Most of this large park was the estate of the Naito clan, lords of Takato, in the Edo period; in more recents times, it has served as an agricultural college a private imperial garden, and since 1949 as a public park. Its outer wall today runs just where the cherry trees in Hiroshige's view are located.

The two-story buildings behind the fences to the right of the canal are the rear quarters of the brothels of the Naito Shinjuku settlement; we can see in one room a customer and three red-clad "serving girls," as they were known.


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