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Night View of Matsuchiyama and the San'ya Canal

Number 34 from the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

Date: original 11/1857, this Showa era
Size: oban, approx. 10.25" x 15.75" overall
Condition: VG, no flaws of note
Impression: Fine, extraordinarily fine impression of this ukiyo-e classic -- note bokashi in water, foreground and in the sky (these elements are dropped from lesser quality strikes)
Color: Fine, deep saturated color
Documentation: One Hundred Famous Views of Edo Brazillier, 1986, print 34
TO MOST WESTERN VIEWERS there is something sinister about this dark scene and its strange figure. On closer inspection however, it is in fact filled with bits of brightness, and the connotations might better be described as sultry than sinister. This impression is sustained by the masterly technique: a rich array of black and gray texture is highlighted by a diversity of bright accents, thus lending a titillating lightness to the deeper sexual meanings of the print.

Consider the background across the river, to which our attention is directed by the title. The San'ya Canal is the small inlet we see to the right, its entrance punctuated by the pillars of Imado Bridge. To either side of the bridge are the warm and alluring lights of two restaurants, the Yumeiro to the right and the Takeya to the left. Any Edo citizen would have immediately associated this place with a trip to the Yoshiwara, for it was at the Imado Bridge that passengers would alight from the boats they had boarded at yanagibashi, and proceed by foot for the last leg of the journey along the romantic Nihon Embankment. Looking more closely, we can see that in fact a whole array of small boats are heading north for the San'ya Canal -- and on to greater pleasures.

And then there is the woman, the geisha who follows the bright lantern of her attendant along the embankment, perhaps returning from a banquet at one of the restaurants. legend says that this is Koman, a favorite of Hiroshige himself, although this is disputed. Whoever she may be, she is one of the few full portraits in the series, and the stern look of her set jaw excites our curiosity in the context of the sultry background.


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