- Museum number
Painting, pair of hanging scrolls. R: Two women under flowering cherry tree by Sumida River, Senso-ji on far bank and Mt. Fuji in distance; L: Two women in covered boat and at landing stage under willow tree by Ryogoku Bridge; birds across river; Mt. Fuji in distance. Ink and colour on silk. Signed and sealed.
- Production date
Height: 88.80 centimetres
Width: 29.80 centimetres
- Curator's comments
Smith et al 1990
The Sumida River, the main river in the city of Edo (modern Tokyo), passed through the neighbourhoods where the merchant and artisan classes lived, the 'low city' ('shitamachi'), as distinct from the more elevated Yamanote district inhabited by the feudal aristocracy and samurai classes. Apart from a few riverside villas and various government buildings such as boathouses and rice granaries, the river was given over largely for the enjoyment of commoners and samurai alike. In this pair of views of the river in spring and early summer geisha are shown enjoying the blossoming cherry trees which clustered along the embankment near Mimeguri shrine (right), and preparing for a trip with a client in a covered boat at a landing-stage near Ryogoku Bridge, under the fresh green hanging branches of a willow tree (left, illustrated).
The style of the paintings - soft wash landscapes with accents of stronger colour to the figures - is a faithful continuation of the techniques perfected by Hiroshige I (1797-1858). In fact, the compositions are copied from two designs in Hiroshige I'S last print series, 'Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji' (no. 223), with slight modifications being made to suit the hanging-scroll format. Though the size of Mount Fuji has been exaggerated for artistic effect, the sacred peak could still be seen from the city of Edo in the era before industrial pollution, and still can today after a high wind.
The Sumida River passed through the neighbourhoods where the merchants and artisans lived, the 'low city' ('shitamachi'), as distinct from the more elevated Yamanote districts inhabited by the feudal aristocracy and samurai classes. Apart from a few riverside villas and government buildings such as boat-houses and granaries, the river was given over for the enjoyment of commoners and samurai alike. In this pair of views of the river in spring and early summer geishas are shown enjoying the blossoming cherry trees which clustered along the embankment near Mimeguri Shrine (right) and preparing for a trip with a client in a covered boat at a landing stage near Ryogoku Bridge, under the fresh green hanging branches of a willow tree (left).
The accomplished technique of the painting - soft wash landscapes with accents of stronger colour for the figures -is a faithful continuation of the style of Hiroshige I, and in fact the compositions are copied from two designs of Hiroshige's last print series, 'Fuji sanju-rokkei' ('Thirty-six Views of Mt Fuji'), with slight modifications being made to suit the hanging-scroll format. In addition, Hiroshige I is known to have done a painted version of the cherry-viewing composition, albeit with the figures and trees in a slightly different configuration (formerly Takeoka Toyota collection; see Hoshino 1927, pls not numbered). Though the size of Mt Fuji has been exaggerated for artistic effect, the sacred peak could often be seen from the city of Edo.
'(Hizo) Ukiyo-e taikan' ('Ukiyo-e Masterpieces in European Collections'), ed. Narazaki Muneshige. Vol. 1, Tokyo, Kodansha, 1987, nos 165, 166.
Smith, Lawrence, 'Japanese Art: Masterpieces in the British Museum', with Victor Harris and Timothy Clark. London, British Museum Publications, 1990, no. 202.
Tokyo-to Bijutsukan (eds), 'Daiei Hakubutsukan hizo Edo bijutsu ten'. Exh. cat., 9 Aug.-24 Sept. 1990, no. 39.
Both scrolls show women enjoying pleasure trips in spring along the banks of the Sumida River, Edo (modern Tokyo) with distant views of Mt Fuji on the horizon. In the right scroll, an evening Fuji, the slopes in shadow, is cleverly caught in the cleft of a flowering cherry tree. The two women are strolling along the raised embankment of the Sumida close by Mimeguri Shrine to admire the blossoms, and on the far bank can be seen the red temple buildings of Senso-ji in the Asakusa district. In the left scroll, the women take to a covered pleasure boat ('yane-bune') under the budding leaves of a willow, with Ryogoku Bridge in the middle-ground and a snow-covered Fuji seemingly stroked by one of the hanging willow tresses. The style combines mainly light washes used for the landscape elements with slightly stronger colours for the figures of the women, particularly the eye-catching red used for the flashes of their undergarments. This faithfully replicates a painting style first devised by Hiroshige I (1797-1858) and indeed the compositions are copied from two print designs done by Hiroshige I for the series 'Thirty-Six Views of Fuji' ('Fuji sanju-rokkei', published 1859?, cat. 85).
The seal clearly reads 'second-generation Hiroshige', which in the past has been taken to mean Hiroshige I's pupil and adopted son Suzuki Shigenobu (1826-69), who used the name Hiroshige from 1859 until his retirement to Yokohama in about 1865, when he changed his name yet again - to Kisai Ryusho. However, it has recently been suggested that these paintings may in fact be by another pupil of Hiroshige, now called by convention Hiroshige III (? 1842-94), who assumed the name Hiroshige after the retirement of Hiroshige II in 1865. The 'second-generation' in the text of the seal may thus be a claim by Hiroshige III which deliberately ignores the prior short-lived use of the name by a rival pupil (Private communication from Asano Shugo).
'Hizo ukiyo-e taikan'. vol. 1, Tokyo, Kodansha, 1987, nos 165-6 (commentary by YokotaYoichi).
Smith, Lawrence, Timothy Clark and Victor Harris. 'Masterpieces of Japanese Art in the British Museum'. London, British Museum Press, 1990, no. 202.
Tokyo-to Bijutsukan, eds. 'Daiei Hakubutsukan hizo Edo bijutsu ten'. Tokyo, 1990, no. 39.
Clark, Timothy. 'Ukiyo-e Paintings in the British Museum'. London, British Museum Press, 1992, no. 144.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2001 May 11-Jul 29, BM Japanese Galleries, '100 Views of Mount Fuji'
2005 25 Jul-8 Oct, Busan Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2010 Feb-Jun, BM Japanese Galleries, 'Japan from Prehistory to the Present'
2013 Apr – Oct, BM Japanese Galleries, 'Japan from Prehistory to the Present'
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- The collection of Japanese and Chinese paintings belonging to Arthur Morrison was purchased by Sir William Gwynne-Evans, who presented it to the British Museum in 1913.
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Asia painting number: Jap.Ptg.1554 (Japanese Painting Number)
Asia painting number: Jap.Ptg.1555 (Japanese Painting Number)