Hiroshige Woodblock Print

Ukiyo-e woodblock print by Utagawa Hiroshige


Yoshiwara Nakanocho Yozakura (Cherry Blossoms under the Full Moon, Yoshiwara Nakanocho)

Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), also known as Andō Hiroshige, was one of the last great Japanese ukiyo-e artists. Ukiyo-e woodblock prints were produced in Japan from the seventeenth to twentieth centuries and featured images from history, landscape, the theatre and the ‘licensed quarters’ of large Japanese cities.

The original meaning of ukiyo was ‘fleeting world’ that is, transient and rather sad, but it later acquired a new meaning, that of a ‘floating world’ drifting on a sea of pleasure.

This print belongs to the series entitled Toto Meisho or Koto Meisho, ‘Famous Views of the Eastern Capital’, brought out by Hiroshige in 1831. The series made his name and was critically acclaimed for its composition and use of colour. Scores of prints from the series appeared between 1833 and 1843.

The first prints, as with the Chetham’s copy, bear a red stamp of a publishing house styled Kikakudo, but later prints have a black stamp styled Sanoki instead of Kikakudo.

The print is one of a small number of Japanese prints and books which belonged to the antiquarian and collector Joseph James Phelps (1855-1928).