Andō Hiroshige
The Village of Tamagawa
1840 / 41

Artist’s seal: Hiroshige hitsu; Long surimono (eban-gire), 17.8 x 51.5 cm; nishiki-e with fukibokashi

From an untitled series of surimono-style landscapes. Shrouded in fog on the other side of the Tamagawa River, the village of Tamagawa-sato is seen with the summit of Mount Fuji in the background. This woodblock print is part of a series of landscapes from Edo and its surroundings published by Wakasaya Yoichi in 1840/41. These exquisite works, elaborately printed in the style of a surimono, have no publisher’s mark. It is possible that these subtly coloured prints were intended to be used as writing paper (eban-gire).

Dona Tamara de Espinosa (Sotheby’s, March 1971); R. F. Lewis, San Francisco (June 1971)
Riese Collection #161

Thirteen of these delicately printed horizontal landscapes are known. They are extremely rare, and until a group of twelve were sold at Sotheby’s in London in 1971, only the two in the Ledoux collection were commonly known. Because of their long format, and the delicate colours in which they were printed, these landscapes have been described as ebangire in Japanese. Ebangire is the format on one half a sheet of unsized hosho paper of the sort used for letters in Japan. Letter paper was designed in this format by Hokusai, Hiroshige, and other artists in the second quarter of the 19th century, but it seems quite obvious from the superb quality of the printing, the gold title seal, and Hiroshige’s own seal in red in the lower right corner, that the set was published privately as a long surimono, in a deliberate recollection of the long surimono designed by Hokusai, Shunman and others in the early years of the century. Supporting this view is the fact that bonafide letter papers by mid-19th century artists were composed of much similar designs, giving ample room for the written script of the message, and were printed on much thinner paper, often thinner even than the usual commercial prints of the period.

Another impression of this print, which is probably the finest design of the series, is reproduced in Fujikake, Ukiyoe no Kenkyū, no. 492. Although no publisher’s mark appears on the prints, Uchida supposed they were issued by Wakasaya. They are usually dated by Japanese authorities to the late 1830s, but on the theory that they are surimono, they would probably have been designed a little earlier in the decade.

Reproduced in: Riese, Asiatische Studien, 1972, p. 116, no. 36 (colour).