- Museum number
- Object: Sumida-gawa choryu zukan 隅田川長流図巻 (Views along the Length of the Sumida River)
Painting, handscroll. Third in a set of three handscrolls depicting scenes along the banks of the Sumida River in the four seasons. In this scroll, the view heads back upstream (north) along the river's east bank, starting with an aerial view of Ryogoku Bridge and ending with Edo countryside in autumn and winter. Ink and colour on paper. Signed and sealed.
- Production date
Height: 31.20 centimetres
Width: 799.90 centimetres
- Curator's comments
The first scroll (1881,1210,0.1434; Jap.Ptg.805) starts at the Sumida River's upper reaches in springtime and moves downstream (south) along the west bank past Matsuchiyama and Asakusa. The second scroll (1881,1210,0.1435; Jap.Ptg.806) continues downstream along the west bank past Nihonbashi in a summer storm and ends at the mouth of the river, where the view swings around to the north, and Mt. Fuji is seen to the west.
See article by Kobayashi Tadashi, ''Sumida-gawa ryogan zumaki' no seiritsu to tenkai' Kokka, 1172 (1993), pp. 3-18.
[Right sheet:] The view is across Edo Bay in spring towards a snow-covered Mt Fuji in the distance with the linked islands of Tsukuda-jima and Ishikawa-jima in the foreground. The small red building is a shrine to the deity of Sumiyoshi, protector of seafarers. Tsukuda-jima was a community of fishermen said to have been first established during the Kan'ei era (1624-44) by immigrants brought from a village of the same name, Tsukuda in Settsu Province (modern Osaka Prefecture). One of their main duties was to provide supplies of whitebait for the Shogunal kitchens during the season in late winter and early spring. The placement of Fuji right at the end of this set of three painted handscrolls (JP 805-7), which show detailed views of the city of Edo all along both banks of the Sumida River - their combined length is over 24 m - is definitely intended to be auspicious. A similar view (and intention) is apparent in the case of the later, and much more impressionistic, painting by Haruki Nammei (cat. 22).
The handscroll paintings have been dated to the Horeki (1751-64) or early Meiwa (1764-72) eras, based on the fashions and hairstyles of the figures depicted, as well as the absence of Azuma Bridge (constructed in 1774) and Nakazu unlicensed pleasure quarter (constructed about 1771, demolished 1789). As such they provide an extremely detailed and unique record of the layout of buildings along the Sumida River at that time. The painter, who uses the signature 'Kyuei' and seal 'Arinari', was, judging by these names, almost certainly a member of the Honjo Midori-cho lineage of the Kano school, which had in the later 17th century formed an offshoot from the Okachi-machi branch of the school. The name Kyuei seems to have been used by successive heads of the Honjo Midori-cho lineage, and the present work has been tentatively ascribed to the fourth incumbent, Kano Kyuei Tanenobu (dates unknown) (Kobayashi Tadashi, '"Sumida-gawa ryogan zukan" no seiritsu to tenkai', 'Kokka' 1172 (July 1993), pp. 8-9.). Certainly the limpid ink technique seen particularly in the blue-and-green trees of the garden on Ishikawa-jima and the washes used to suggest the foothills and clouds surrounding Mt Fuji is typical of Edo Kano painting at its most accomplished and professional. The composition of 'Views along the Length of the Sumida River', which may well derive from earlier, now lost, painted versions handed down within the Edo Kano school, was later adapted in a popular hand-coloured woodblock version by Tsuruoka Rosui (who worked late 18th to early 19th century), published in 1781 with the title 'Sumida-gawa ryogan ichiran' ('Both Banks of the Sumida River at a Glance'; also in the British Museum collection, JIB 506, 506B). The printed version by Rosui also concludes with a view of Tsukuda-jima and a snow-covered Mt Fuji.
Anderson, William. 'Descriptive and Historical Catalogue of a Collection of Japanese and Chinese Paintings in the British Museum'. London, Trustees of the British Museum, 1886, nos 1434-6.
'Hizo Nihon bijutsu taikan'. vol. 2, Tokyo, Kodansha, 1992, nos 27-9 (commentary by Kobayashi Tadashi).
Kobayashi Tadashi. '"Sumida-gawa ryogan zukan" no seiritsu to tenkai'. 'Kokka' 1172, July 1993, pp. 5-10.
Hizo Nihon bijutsu taikan Vol 2
It was around the middle of the eighteenth century, when the new city of Edo had come to maturity and begun to develop its own unique culture, that its inhabitants first began to take pride in the Sumida River and to see the scenery along its banks, and the lives of the people who lived there, as subjects for artistic treatment. The first of these three scrolls starts with the area around the Massaki Inari Shrine, lying upstream on the northern part of the Sumida's western bank (Color Plate 27-1). It then proceeds from the flourishing tile-making yards of Imado (Color Plate 27-2); via the Seitengu shrine at Matsuchiyama and Sanya-bori, just below it; to a distant view of the buildings of the famous Asakusa-dera temple and the imposing official rice storehouses.
The second scroll, reversing the direction, follows the east bank upstream from the lower reaches; it makes striking use of three bridges: Eitai-bashi, Shin-ohashi, and finally Ryogoku-bashi, whose wooden pillars straddle the broad reaches of the river in an imposing display of structural mass and strength. Particularly interesting in the case of Ryogoku-bashi are the human figures shown crossing the bridge, with their carefully observed distinctions of social station, occupation, age, and sex (Color Plate 28).
The third scroll is devoted to scenery on the west bank, proceeding farther downstream from the official rice granaries shown at the end of the first scroll. Shin-ohashi, shown in a shower (Color Plate 29), is succeeded by Eitai-bashi, which gives way in turn to the estuary where the huge sailing vessels used on coastal voyages are shown at anchor. It then proceeds to Ishikawa-jima, lapped by the waves of Edo harbor, and beyond it the graceful form of snow-capped Fuji brings the whole work to a suitably auspicious close.
Other, already familiar, paintings surveying the scenery along the east and west banks of the Sumida River include Tsuruoka Rosui's 'Toto Sumida-gawa ryogan ichiran', published in 1781 (woodcut, print, hand-colored; two scrolls or two volumes; see illustration, pp. 264-65), and Katsushika Hokusai's 'Sumida-gawa ryogan ichiran' (color print, three volumes), believed to have been published around 1806, as well as other scrolls and block-printed picture books aimed at the general public. The brush-painted picture scroll shown here is probably one of the very earliest examples of the genre; it is also extremely valuable in terms of art history, in that it confirms that the genre was initiated by orthodox painters of the official Kano school.
Tsuruoka Rosui's 'Toto Sumida-gawa ryogan ichiran' consists of two scrolls respectively devoted to the east and west banks, but in fact these were executed with direct reference to the present work - the east-bank scroll being based on its second scroll and the west-bank scroll on the first and third scrolls.
This type of picture scroll depicting the new prosperity of Edo in a series of views along the banks of the Sumida was first painted by Edo artists belonging to one of the official schools, but the subject was subsequently relinquished to the independent "town" painters ('machi-eshi'), then made available to the general public via the medium of the woodblock print. In a sense, this development provides a paradigm of the gradual maturing of Edo culture as a whole.
'1434 to 1436. Uncommon examples.' (unattributed annotations in the specially interleaved Japanese Study Room copy of Anderson 1886)
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2001 11 May-29 Jul, London, BM Japanese Galleries, '100 Views of Mount Fuji'
2006 13 Oct-2007 11 Feb, London, BM Japanese Galleries, 'Japan from prehistory to the present'
2010 Jun- 2011 Feb, London, BM, Japanese Galleries, ‘Japan from prehistory to the present’
2018 Oct-2019 Apr, BM Mitsubishi Corporation Japanese Galleries (Ryogoku Bridge scene)
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- The collection of over 2,000 Japanese and Chinese paintings assembled by Prof. William Anderson during his residency in Japan, 1873-1880, was acquired by the Museum in 1881. The items were not listed in the register, but rather were published separately as the 'Descriptive and Historical Catalogue of a Collection of Japanese and Chinese Paintings in the British Museum' (Longmans & Co, 1886).
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Asia painting number: Jap.Ptg.807 (Japanese Painting Number)