March 16, 2021
MAKER: Utagawa Hiroshige (Ando)
DATE: 11th Month of 1857 (Japanese Calendar)
PERIOD: Edo Period, Ansei Era (1615-1868)
DIMENSIONS: 33.2 x 22.1 cm
MATERIAL: Woodblock Print, Ink and Color on Paper
LOCATION: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
ACCESSION NUMBER: 30.1478.101
DESCRIPTION: 101st edition from winter catalog in One Hundred Famous Views of Edo.
COLLECTION: Brooklyn Museum, New York
I am always intrigued by looking at Utagawa Hiroshige’s prints. The One Hundred Famous Views of Edo is the kind of series where you always discover something new every time you see it. To introduce the history of this series, in brief, after Edo (modern Tokyo) became the seat government in the 17th century, the city of Edo benefited from rapid economic growth and development, people started indulging in entertainment, drama, theatre in the leisure period and that is how the word ukiyo derived where Edo was now becoming a “floating world” where people were trying to live a hedonistic lifestyle which was a sudden change in Edo. The print type ukiyo-e has its own characteristics, these prints were produced in a large number of series throughout the year, and were produced in particular subject choices by the artists such as Kabuki actors, scenes from history and folktales, travel scenes and landscapes, and more which was very popular with the merchant class, who could afford to buy these prints which show that people were interested in decorating their homes with them.
I have picked this wonderful print named “Revelers Returned from the Tori no Machi Festival”, which is the 101st print from the winter collection of the One Hundred Famous Views of Edo. Although this print is currently not on view, it is in the Brooklyn Museum’s permanent collections. The Brooklyn Museum has made its official website very easily accessible to the public with a wide range of collections to see. What really grabs my attention in this print is the use of the color palette and the application method. It is definitely not an easy process to produce such kind of tonal gradation in the background of Ultramarine Blue to Crimson Red, the tonal background has done an excellent work to balance the whole composition of this print. The very tiny details here such as the wooden frame of the window, patterns on the wall, collection of decorative “kumade” hairpins for hairdos, printed mouth rinsing bowl, and a towel, bring out the story of the Yoshiwara Brothel over the Asakusa rice fields. Yoshiwara was one of three licensed red-light districts in Tokyo which was established during the 1700s. The windows resemble the cages as referred to in many articles. The detailed cat looking out of the window, which I believe reflects the emotions of the women stuck inside those houses waiting to see ordinary people visiting the city, which was not an everyday happening. This print does bring out many meanings to our imagination.
References:  “Asakusa Ricefields and Torinomachi Festival, No. 101 from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo,” Brooklyn Museum, accessed March 16, 2021, https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/121714  Craig Hartley and Celia R. Withycombe, Prints of the Floating World: Japanese Woodcuts from the Fitzwilliam Museum, 8.  “Ukiyo-e,” Wikipedia (Wikimedia Foundation, January 10, 2020), accessed March 16, 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukiyo-e
Collection Photograph: Courtesy Utagawa Hiroshige's "Asakusa Ricefields and Torinomachi Festival, No. 101 from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo" - Brooklyn Museum, New York.
Link to Access the Collection: https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/121714