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Table of Contents, from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

Catalogue Description:
"This decorative presentation of the contents of the "One Hundred Famous Views of Edo" was published after the completion of the entire series of 118 prints in the tenth month of 1858. (Hiroshige died in the ninth month of that year.) The final three designs (prints 12, 41, and 114) were approved the month after the artist's death, a fact that lends support to the theory that they are the work of his successor (Hiroshige II) and this table of contents was probably commissioned at about the same time. The artist chosen for this table of contents was Baisotei Gengyo (1817-1880), a designer best known for his decorative book jackets. Gengyo had already designed a similar table of contents in 1856 for Hiroshige's "Views of the Sixty-Odd Provinces." Gengyo's seal appears in the lower right corner. The 118 prints in the series are here presented in groups according to the four seasons. The cartouche to the lower left offers the series title, "One Hundred Views of Edo" (Edo Hyakkei, lacking the proper prefix meisho, meaning "famous places," which had probably already become understood in popular parlance). Surmounting the title is the artist's name (Ichiryusai Hiroshige) and the advertisement that this series is his "grand farewell performance." The titles of the 118 prints - usually shortened forms of those appearing on the prints themselves - are arranged in five blocks, each presented with a distinctive decorative technique. The spring scenes (prints 1-42) are arranged in two separate rectangles at the top, the summer scenes (prints 43-72) in a fan pattern in the middle, with a blind-printed wave pattern in the background, and the fall and winter scenes (prints 73-98 and 99-118 respectively) below; both in fabric printing. The order is normally in horizontal columns, right to left across the top and then across the bottom, except for the summer scenes, which are arranged in ten "slices" of the fan, right to left, each with three titles arranged in artistic calligraphic order. The grouping of the scenes within each season is geographical, but not in any predictable fashion. The background is difficult to read as a whole. A single blooming plum, a sign of spring, runs from top to bottom, against a ground of reddish brown, yellow, and green (replaced by a uniform gray or blue-gray in later impressions). A hototogisu against the full moon, a sign of summer, shares its space with the fan shaped summer group. Peeking out from the cartouches along the bottom are a haystack and sprigs of the seven grasses of autumn. Spring reappears in the narcissus at the bottom. Winter is absent. (Interpretation by H. Smith, 1986)


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