Andō Hiroshige
1837 - 1839

Signed: Hiroshige ga; artist’s seal: Ichiryūsai; Publisher’s seal: Kinjudō (Iseya Rihei); ōban, yoko-e, 24.4 x 36.2 cm; nishiki-e with fukibokashi

Print (station no.)32 from “The 69 Stations of the Kisokaidō Road”. The Kisokaidō (“Kiso Street”) like the Tōkaidō connected the capital cities of Edo and Kyōto. The less frequently travelled, somewhat longer, and more difficult route led through the interior of the country from Nihonbashi to Kusatsu. There, two stations before Kyōto, it joined up with the Tōkaidō. Seba is from the third phase of production between 1837 and 1839. The way the mood of the evening is rendered in muted shades of blue in the dim light of the full moon makes this print one of the masterpieces of the cycle.

Raymond Koechlin, Paris; Sotheby’s, London; R. E. Lewis, San Francisco (November 1972)
Riese Collection #157

During the Tokugawa period, five great highways to the provinces originated in Edo: the Ōshūkaidō, which extended from Senju northwards to the town of Miumaya; the Nikkōkaidō, which branched off from the northern highway at Utsunomiya and continued to the site of the Tokugawa family mausoleum in Nikkō; the Kōshūkaidō which began from Nihonbashi and made its way westward to the city of Kōfu; and the two most travelled roads, connecting Edo and Kyōto, the Tōkaidō and the Nakasendō. As their names imply, the Tōkaidō followed the coast, and was the quicker and easier of the two highways. The Nakasendō went inland and passed through the mountainous area of Kiso, for this reason often being referred to as the Kisokaidō, or the Kiso Road. Strictly speaking, however, the Kiso Road was the section of fourteen stations between Shiojiri and Nakatsu River, about a fifth of the total distance of 536 kilometres this road covered. Seba was the first station after Shiojiri on the way to Kyōto.

Hiroshige’s view of Seba, with its effect of transparent moonlight has always been considered one of the masterpieces of the series, especially so by the Japanese who consider it to be one of Hiroshige’s very finest prints.

Unlike many Hiroshige subjects which, like Mt. Hira in the Eight Views of Omi series, undergo drastic alterations in their colour scheme, there is great similarity in all the relatively early impressions of Seba. The earliest impressions, however, are printed with very thin washes of colour, especially on the blocks used in the sky, creating an effect of pellucid clarity and transparent luminosity. Later impressions tend to be darker, printed with more saturated, denser colours, and creating effects of greater contrast.
By these lights, the Riese impression is one of the finest known.

Another fine, early impression in the Tōkyō National Museum is reproduced in Kikuchi, pl. 83 in colour, and seems to have more yellow mixed with the bluish-green on the bank at the left, giving a warm contrast to the blues of the water and the sky. Another early impression is reproduced in colour in Ukiyo-e Taikei, Vol. 11, no. 22. Later impressions, with darker colour, are reproduced in Ukiyoe Taikei, Vol. 15, no. 32 and in Stern, Master Prints of Japan, pl. 150, both in colour.
Another very fine, early impression is reproduced in Vignier and Inada, Toyokuni, Hiroshige, no. 299, pl. LXXX.