Andō Hiroshige
Five Trout Swimming in the Tama River
c. 1833

Signed: Hiroshige hitsu; Publisher’s seal: Eijudō (Nishimuraya Yohachi); censor’s seal: kiwame; ōban, yoko-e, 25.0 x 37.3 cm; nishiki-e with fukibokashi

From the first series of ten prints of fish (uo-zukushi), later edition. This is a simpler, commercial version of what was originally a limited edition, in the style of a surimono, with mica printing (kirazuri) and other elaborate techniques. Around 1840 Hiroshige added another ten prints. Next to the river trout is a waka poem in fine calligraphy by Hanazono Shizue, in which the beauty of the shimmering silver fish is celebrated, as so singular that even the water of the Tamagawa clouded by autumn rain cannot diminish it.

John Mellor (Sotheby’s, July 1963)
Riese Collection #160

The Large Fishes, as this set has been called, were originally published privately for a poetry circle. The earliest impressions are exquisitely printed, like surimono, and since they were issued as a poetry album, invariably have centrefolds. Afterwards Eijudō decided to publish a commercial edition of the prints which bore his seal, the censor’s mark, and lost much of the delicacy of the original printing. Impressions form the original edition and earlier impressions from the commercial edition are printed with the two dark blue bands in the water running from one side of the print to the other.
The fish, ayu in Japanese, is a river trout. Its Latin name is Blecoglossus attivelis. The poem by Hanazono Shizue reads:

Aki no ame
furite mo no
kake sabi wa miezaru
Tamagawa no ayu.

It has been charmingly translated by Laurence Binyon in the British Museum catalogue as follows: “The autumn rain spoils not the beauty of Tama River, no fleck of rust has stained the steely sheen of its trout”.

Reproduced in: Ingelheim catalogue, no. 130.

An impression of the first state of the print, with mica on the fish and lacking seal of publisher and censor is reproduced in colour in Suzuki, Hiroshige. An earlier impression of the commercial edition, with the blue bands extending from side to side is reproduced in colour in Narazaki, Studies in Nature, no. 57.