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Blossoms on the Tama River Embankment, No. 42 in One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

Utagawa Hiroshige

Asian Art

The "Tama River," actually the Tama River Aqueduct, carried much of the drinking water for the city of Edo along a thirty-mile course. Hiroshige's springtime view vividly conveys a freshness and vitality befitting this lifeline. The cherry trees were planted along much of the embankment in the 1730s. The placement was not only aesthetic but also practical: the trees' roots strengthened the banks, and their petals and leaves were thought to possess antitoxic powers that kept the water pure.

MEDIUM Woodblock print
  • Place Made: Japan
  • DATES 2nd month of 1856
    PERIOD Edo Period, Ansei Era
    DIMENSIONS 14 5/16 x 9 5/16in. (36.4 x 23.7cm) Image: 14 5/16 x 9 5/16 in. (36.4 x 23.7 cm) Sheet: 12 15/16 x 8 3/4 in. (32.9 x 22.2 cm)  (show scale)
    MARKINGS No publisher's seal visible, probably lsot when the left margin was trimmed.
    SIGNATURE Hiroshige-ga
    ACCESSION NUMBER 30.1478.42
    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 The Tama River Aqueduct shown here was constructed in 1653-54. It carried drinking water for the city of Edo along a 30-mile course, and continued to carry much of the water supply for the city of Tokyo until the 1960's. Then the old Edo wooden system was replaced with modern equipment and this part of the canal, no longer needed, was paved over. The cherry trees along the embankment were planted in the 1730's and were not only a source of beauty, but helped to keep the water pure through the allegedly antitoxic powers of the leaves and petals. To the left is the entrance to one of the smaller samurai estates. In the Edo period, most of this park was the estate of the Naito clan, lords of Takata; subsequently, it served as an agricultural college, a private imperial garden and since 1949 as a public park. The two-story buildings mark the Naito Shinjuku settlement, where one can see a customer and three "serving girls" as they were known, in the rear quarters of a brothel to the right of the canal.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Utagawa Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797–1858). Blossoms on the Tama River Embankment, No. 42 in One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, 2nd month of 1856. Woodblock print, 14 5/16 x 9 5/16in. (36.4 x 23.7cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Anna Ferris, 30.1478.42 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 30.1478.42_PS20.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 30.1478.42_PS20.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2023
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