Tracing the Provenance: The Discovery
Curator Amy Poster (at left in this photo), former Chair of the Asian Art Department, discovered a set of bound Japanese woodblock prints on a shelf in the Museum's Library in 1970, when she was a curatorial assistant. Poster correctly identified the prints as a complete set of the One Hundred Famous Views of Edo by Utagawa (Andō) Hiroshige. The Museum's records at the time contained no information about the prints. Curators then consulted R. G. Sawers, an expert in the field of Japanese woodblock prints. Sawers not only confirmed the authenticity of the prints, but also noted that they were an extremely rare complete set and an unusual early edition. (Only seven complete first editions exist today.) The prints were in pristine condition with brilliant color and sharp black outlines.
In 1986, when the Museum first published a catalogue of One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, a visitor noticed a practically illegible note written in pencil on one of the print borders: "Gift of Anna Ferris 1930." Curators began to research the Ferris family and their connections to the artwork. The donor, Anna Ferris (1851–1932), was the daughter of the Reverend John Mason Ferris (1825–1911), a prominent minister in the Dutch Reformed Church. John Ferris had worked as a missionary, and remained highly involved in the church's foreign activities for the rest of his life. In 1870, he founded the Ferris Academy in Yokohama and sponsored the education of many Japanese students in America. Anna Ferris lived on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn for most of her adult life. The Museum's records include the genealogy of the Ferris family in the records of the Hiroshige prints.
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