Andō Hiroshige
Returning Sails at Yabase

Signed: Hiroshige ga; Publisher’s seal: Eikyūdō han (Yamamotoya Heikichi); ōban, yoko-e, 22.5 x 35.0 cm; nishiki-e with fukibokashi and kirazuri

From the series “Eight Views of Ōmi”. A path leads to the right along the shore of a lake toward the village of Yabase on the eastern side of Lake Biwa. Across the broad surface of the water, boats can be seen returning home with full white sails in the distance which are gradually reefed as they approach the harbour. Above a ridge of dark blue hills on the opposite shore, the silhouette of the Holy Mountain of Hieizan, near Kyōto, rises up majestically. This is a later edition, in which the clouds in the orange sky were omitted.

F. Tikotin, La Tour de Peilz (March 1968)
Riese Collection #143

All impressions of this print seem to have a break in the bottom line of the title cartouche just beneath the last character, and all seem to have two breaks in the left border at the height of the treetops toward the middle of the picture. The earliest impressions seem to be those printed entirely in tones of grey, excepting the red seal below Hiroshige’s signature, and the light red and blue pattern under the poem. Two impressions in this state are known, the Michener impression (Japanese Woodblock Prints, fig. 229) and the Koechlin impression (Vignier and Inada, Toyokuni Hiroshige, no. 237, pl. LXII). Both of these impressions have a dark grey block which is used to print shadows under the trees in the lower right corner and which is lacking in later impressions. In both of them, the distant range of mountains is completely separated from the hills in the middle distance, and there are no printed clouds between.

The Riese impression belongs to what seems to be the second state of the print. There is no separate block for shadows under the trees in the lower right-hand corner, but there is a band of finely-engraved horizontal parallel lines of mist between the two mountain images. While the earliest impressions are a monochromatic range of colour which poignantly conveys the darkness of twilight, impressions of the second state are printed with colours which suggest the shadows of a bucolic summer afternoon, the sunlight still shining brightly on the hillsides, the valley beginning to darken. The sky in theses impressions is yellow, with a band of black at the top, the bands of mist or cloud are orange, the hills in the middle distance green and the fields in the foreground are a reddish-brown shading off to grey in the middle distance. Another impression of this state in the Takahashi collection is reproduced in Ukiyoe Taikei, Vol. 11, no. 155.

Later impressions also exist. The impression in the Tōkyō National Museum (Kikuchi 1278) shows wear on the lower line surrounding the poem, lacks the band of must in the sky, and seems to be printed with only one, uniform colour in the foreground. Stewart (Subjects Portrayed in Japanese Prints, p. 143) describes a late impression with green in the foreground, and a reddish colour on the upper hills.