Edo prints

  Design: Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806)  
  Title: Above and below Ryōgoku bridge  
  Size: 38.3 x 25.4 cm (ōban)  
  Posthumous printing from newly cut woodblocks    
  Photography: Jacques Commandeur
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Utamaro Above and below Ryogoku bridge (bottom middle)


Originally released ca. 1795-6 by publisher Ōmiya Gonkurō, this version was published around the 1920s by publisher and designer Hashiguchi Goyō (1880-1921) from newly carved woodblocks.

A lady on yet another chikobune is being helped aboard the yakebune of the previous print by a lady in blue kimono. The lady in red kimono holds a sake kettle in hand. Note the rolled-up green blinds attached to the end of the roof of the yakebune. These blinds could be rolled down to protect the boat passengers from unfavourable weather conditions as well as to hide what was happening under and inside the roofed part of the boat.

Just on the other side of Ryōgoku bridge a yakatabune (literally meaning “house boat”) can be seen travelling up the river. These pleasure boats or “floating restaurants” with roofed cabins were usually large enough for ten to twenty people and could be hired for long, leisurely cruises up and down the river.

In the further distance of this downstream view of the Sumida river in Edo we see Shin Ōhashi bridge. Beyond Shin Ōhashi bridge the large masts of sea vessels anchored near Tsukudajima island in Edo bay are visible.

This is the sixth print in a spectacular hexaptych of woodblock prints. A simultaneous view of the prints in this hexaptych can be seen here.

Artist’s signature on supporting beam of the roof of the yakebune:

Character Reading Meaning Translation
uta poem  
麿 maro you Drawn by
hitsu writing brush Utamaro

Black Iwa seal on hull of the yakebune as well as rectangular seal 23-068 of the original publisher Ōmiya Gonkurō containing his name and address: Hon Ōmiya Asakusa Kayamachi. See Marks (2011, p.69).

Red rectangular Goyo publisher seal in left margin of the print.


Provenance: Chris Uhlenbeck’s Hotei Japanese Prints

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