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  • Thumbnail for Ukiyo-e print of a beautiful woman
  • Thumbnail for Hakone from Fifty-three Famous Places (Gojûsan tsugi meishozue)
    Hakone from Fifty-three Famous Places (Gojûsan tsugi meishozue) by Utagawa (Andô) Hiroshige

    Woodblock print. 13¾" x 9". Paper was issued in the Tokugawa Period (1615-1868) in standard sizes, most prints being in the oban format of 15 x10. The smaller size of this print thus indicates cutting. Condition good with some slight damage and staining in center of the print. Professor Mandancy’s letter identifies the work as one of the Fifty-three Stages of the Tokaidô (Tokaidô gojûsan no uchi), that is the set of 1833-34. Actually the print is from the 1855 set, as properly noted in her original list. The first step in making an Ukiyo-e woodblock print was an artist (eshi) painted a composition in ink on paper. The sketch (or later a copy) was pasted down on a plank of wood (usually cherry) and cut away to create the key or outline block. A separate person from the artist, called the cutter (hori), did the carving. A third person -- the rubber (suri) -- took the carved block and, placing it face up, moistened the printing surfaces by quickly brushing on water and glue. Color and ink were then applied by hand and pre-moistened paper placed onto the wet surface. The rubber then took the print by rubbing from behind with a baren (pad of rope covered by bamboo). It is usually presumed that the key block was used to make the patterns for the color blocks. In old views of Ukiyo-e, the key block, being closest to the sketch by the hand of the artist, was considered the most important. Authenticity, therefore, was mostly a matter of comparing lines in a questioned print to those in published, established, or otherwise accepted examples. If there was a match, the print was “genuine,†and often labeled as such on a tag on the back. The print of Hakone is, moreover, very useful for teaching how to look at lines in Ukiyo-e because those forming the border around the image show gaps and are thin, indicating that the key block was old and worn when the print was taken. The lines in Shinagawa are stronger, an important point in determining the work’s better condition.More interestingly, there is a worn area in the right hand corner of Hakone, where the printed line appears to have been scraped off and then drawn back in. Such repairs are common in Ukiyo-e and a much more obvious example is in the print of Shirasuka in the Union College Collection, by the same artist and from the same series. Shirasuka clearly has been repaired. For instance, there is a hole in its lower half of the print that has been filled in and colored to match the surrounding areas. In the lower right hand corner of Shirasuka, there is a place where the line has been obviously scraped off and then redrawn.

  • Thumbnail for Ukiyo-e print of a beautiful woman
    Ukiyo-e print of a beautiful woman by Utagawa (Andô) Hiroshige

    Woman struggling to open an umbrella.

  • Thumbnail for Shinagawa from Fifty-three Famous Places (Gojûsan tsugi meishozue)
    Shinagawa from Fifty-three Famous Places (Gojûsan tsugi meishozue) by Utagawa (Andô) Hiroshige

    Woodblock print. 13¾" x 9". Paper was issued in the Tokugawa Period (1615-1868) in standard sizes, most prints being in the oban format of 15 x10. The smaller size of this print thus indicates cutting. Condition good with some slight damage and staining. Professor Mandancy’s original list identifies this work correctly as second print in 1855 set, though her letter listed it again mistakenly as part of the earlier set. Old time connoisseurs of ukiyo-e looked mostly at the lines, but today, there is more consideration of the printing of the colors. Studies of the prints of Harunobu by Jack Hillier (Suzuki Harunobu, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1970, pp. 28-31) suggest that this Ukiyo-e artist offered a first state (best rubbed and colored) to a select clientele and then made subsequent larger, offerings (less carefully rubbed and colored) for more casual buyers. Some regard only the first offering as Art, seeing the later ones as closer to reproduction for commercial purposes. Colors have faded in both Hakone and Shinagawa, as is apparent in the pink rather than red tone of the vertical title bar. However, Hakone shows much more careful rubbing than Shinagawa. An example is the blue bar in the sea above the roofline in the middle of the print of Shinagawa. Such a blue bar is common in Ukiyo-e and is called a “number one†(ichimonji) because the character for “1†is a single, horizontal stroke. An ichimonji is made by painting a broad band of color onto the pre-moistened block and then swiping across it to remove some color and so create a tonal variation. Streaks in the blue bar in Shinagawa indicate that this “wipe†was quick and simple. This is also true for the blue at the top of Shinagawa, or the colors of the distant mountains, wall, or other areas. By contrast, the grey color of the large mountain that dominates the left half of the composition of Hakone is much more carefully done. It fades out much more gradually. The grain of the wooden block has also been used to create cliffs and crags in the mountain. Similarly, the rubber used the rough texture of the wood itself to give the dotted look of gritty rock. This effect is particularly nicely done in the area by the shore, where it produces a sandy texture that contrasts to the wet-looking blue water.