Andō Hiroshige
Cherry Blossom in Full Bloom at Arashiyama

Signed: Hiroshige ga; Publisher’s seal: Kawaguchi han (Kawaguchi Uhei); ōban, yoko-e, 23.6 x 35.9 cm; nishiki-e with fukibokashi and musenzuri

From the series “Famous Places in Kyōto”. After the great success of the Tōkaidō cycle, Hiroshige designed other landscape series, among them this 1834 series of ten prints, Kyōto meisho no uchi (“Famous Places in Kyōto”). To do so, he made use of illustrated travel guides (meisho zu-e), transforming their monochrome images into highly atmospheric, full-colour scenes. Arashiyama, to the west of Kyōto, was famous for its abundance of cherry blossoms, which has just about reached a high point in this magnificent spring picture.

Sotheby’s, London (March 1971)
Riese Collection #155

Mt. Arashi on the western outskirts of Kyōto was famous for its cherry blossom, and naturally found its way into Hiroshige’s one set of the imperial capital.

Impressions of this print are usually well-printed, and the cherry blossoms on this impression, a rich rose, shaded so as to be darker at the edges of each cluster of blossom, are particularly nice. This impression suffers one defect which sheds an interesting light on the practice of printing during this period. The cherry blossoms over the water just to the left of the rising smoke seemed blurred and out of focus. What happened is that the blue block for the water was printed twice, the first time with the light blue that extends toward the middle of the river, the second time with the dark blue along the right edge and the bank. The blue block had the pattern of the cherry blossoms and the petals fallen in the river carved in reserve; in white, that is, against the broad expanse of printing colour. When the blue block was printed for the second time the print had to be in perfect register to allow the blossoms and petals to stand out sharply as they do, for example, in the full-size colour reproduction in Ukiyoe Taikei, Vol. 11, no. 25. In this impression, the second printing was less than one millimetre out of register, the blue block having moved up and slightly to the left, but this was enough to create three colours: dark blue, light blue, and white, where only dark blue and white were intended, and the blurred effect is the result.