Famous Places, The Six Jewel Rivers: Chofu River in Musashi Province
(Meisho awase Mu Tamagawa: Musashi no kuni Chofu)
signed Gountei Sadahide ga, with censor's seal Yoshimura (Yoshimura Gentaro), and publisher's seal Ezakiya Tatsuzo, ca. 1843-46
oban tate-e 14 1/2 by 10 1/8 in., 36.8 by 25.8 cm
This composition depicts two bijin washing cloth in the Chofu River. The term tamagawa ('jewel river'), first expressed in the 8th century poetry anthology Manyoshu, is often used in classical Japanese poetry to describe rivers of distinctive beauty. By the Edo period, a grouping of six specific 'jewel rivers', called the Mutamagawa, had become popular subjects for artists and poets alike. These rivers, including the Koya, Noda, Mishima, Noji, Ide, and Chofu, each had their own, specific iconography. Known for the high quality cotton cloth produced along its banks, depictions of the Chofu came to include fresh white linens.
The beauty holding a long cloth trailing into the river with a small crab dangling from the fabric is similar to the 'Water' (Mizu) subject of a Kuniyoshi print from an untitled series based on The Five Elements (wood, fire, earth, metal and water), published by Fujioka-ya Hikotaro in circa 1840.
Matthew Welch and Yuiko Kimura-Tilford, Worldly Pleasures, Earthly Delights: Japanese Prints from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2011, pp. 120-121 (re: Mutamagawa)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (www.mfa.org), William Sturgis Bigelow Collection, 1911, accession no. 11.39181
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