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Nihonbashi, Clearing After Snow, No. 1 in One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

Utagawa Hiroshige

Asian Art

How can a single composition document the city of Edo during the mid-nineteenth century? Three iconic images of Japanese culture during the time of Hiroshige are joined in this print, which was chosen to introduce the series: in the background, the perfect form of Mount Fuji, symbol of nature and the divine; at the right, Edo Castle, representing political power; and in the foreground, riverside scenes teeming with activity, emblematic of the common people. The snowy scene is cast in morning light, at the great Bridge of Japan, or Nihonbashi, from which distances to all parts of Japan were measured.

MEDIUM Woodblock print
  • Place Made: Japan
  • DATES 5th month of 1856
    PERIOD Edo Period, Ansei Era
    DIMENSIONS Image: 13 3/8 x 8 3/4 in. (34 x 22.2 cm) Sheet: 14 3/16 x 9 1/4 in. (36 x 23.5 cm)  (show scale)
    SIGNATURE Artist Hiroshige-ga, Publisher Shitaya Uo Ei
    ACCESSION NUMBER 30.1478.1
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Anna Ferris
    PROVENANCE Prior to 1930, provenance not yet documented; by 1930, acquired by Anna Ferris of Summit, NJ; 1930, gift of Anna Ferris to the Brooklyn Museum.
    Provenance FAQ
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION This iconic view of Edo is the symbolic opening of the series. From an elevated viewpoint, it looks west across Nihonbashi, the Bridge of Japan, Bridge of the Rising Sun, across the grounds of Edo Castle to the upper right, toward the perfect form of Mount Fuji to the left. "Everything in this view suggests freshness and plenty. It is an early morning after new snow, and the morning sun casts reddish bands from behind us to middle left and upper right. Reading from the bottom, we first encounter the Edo fish market and can see fresh fish of all sizes already laid out for display, the street filling with browsing retail vendors and street peddlers. Up the river come the fishing boats, riding in on a deep fan of blue that suggests the sea and its bounty. These are the oshi-okuribune, which relied on oar power as well as the wind to get their produce to the morning market on time. They are covered with mat-roofs to protect the freshness of their cargo. The great bridge itself, from which distances to all parts of Japan were measured, is already busy with early morning traffic, its size approximately exaggerated. Beyond it to the right is ikkokubashi (see pl. 45). Just above it to the left stand fireproof mud-walled storehouses. Far out of scale and imprecise in placement, these white faces and tiles roofs are again symbolic, representing the power of the city of Edo to provide for its citizens, a promise that was rarely broken." (H. Smith, in Braziller, N.Y. 1986)
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Utagawa Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797–1858). Nihonbashi, Clearing After Snow, No. 1 in One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, 5th month of 1856. Woodblock print, Image: 13 3/8 x 8 3/4 in. (34 x 22.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Anna Ferris, 30.1478.1 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 30.1478.1_PS20.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 30.1478.1_PS20.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2023
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