Toyohara Kunichika


Fireworks in an Evening Cool at Ryogoku
(Ryogoku hanabi no noryo)

signed in the lower left of the left sheet, Toyohara Kunichika hitsu, the publisher's cartouche to the right with Sawamura Seikichi's address and family name, Takegawa Seikichi (the crest associated with the Sawamura family name is found nearby on the back of the male figure having his sake cup refilled) and incomplete date cartouche, Meiji - nen jugatsu - ka (Meiji -?-, October), ca. 1895-96

oban tate-e triptych 14 5/8 by 29 5/8 in., 37 by 75.1 cm

During the hot and humid summer months city dwellers would escape the heat by taking in the evening cool along rivers and waterways, and pleasure boats drifting on the river provided an alternate venue for parties normally hosted at restaurants and teahouses. As early as 1731 , the government began to sponsor an annual presentation of fireworks on the Sumida River at the Ryogoku (Ohashi) Bridge. On evenings when the fireworks were on display, the bridge would fill with spectators and the river would teem with boats jockeying for position for the best view of the show, both in the sky and among the crowds.

Although the date cartouche on this print (and on other impressions) is not completed, based on the signature it was published in circa 1895, quite far into the Meiji era. And yet, here we have a view of a boatload of beauties, literally, taking part in that classic Edoite pleasure of enjoying the evening cool and the fireworks at Ryogoku Bridge (rebuilt in 1875). In the background we can pick out familar landmarks, in addition to Ryogoku bridge to the left, to the right we see the shorter Yanagibashi bridge and the silhouette of upright bamboo at the kiba timber yard. One needs to look into the distance to see the telegraph poles and street lights on the Ryogoku Bridge to ascertain that it is, in fact, a view of Tokyo nearing the turn of the 20th cetury.

Nobutaka Imamura, ed., Ukiyo-e (Kunichika), Kyoto University of Art & Design, March 2018, p. 207, no. 901
(inv. no. 10-5325)

price: $1,300


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