Andō Hiroshige
Fireworks at Ryōgoku
1858, 8th month

Signed: Hiroshige ga; Publisher’s seal: Shitaya Shinguro Uo’ei (Uoya Eikichi); censor’s seal: aratame; ōban, 37.3 x 24.7 cm; nishiki-e with fukibokashi and kirazuri, attractive woodgrain

Print 98 from “One Hundred Views of Famous Places in Edo”. All of Hiroshige’s Edo series include a view of the Ryōgoku Bridge, but none are as impressive as the first one in the early Tōto meisho series (cf. cat. 195) and this last one. During the summer and early autumn, people enjoyed the cool of the evening on the Sumida-gawa. By the end of the Edo period, fireworks were so popular with the hedonistic edokko (residents of Edo) that the authorities limited them to the area around the river to reduce the danger of fire.

Orange and Thornicroft (Sotheby’s, London, 1922); Sotheby’s, London, January 1965
Riese Collection #171

Hiroshige died on the 6th day of the 9th month of 1858, the month after this print was published. In every series of views of Edo, and Hiroshige designed over twenty of them in the course of nearly thirty years, there was a view of Ryōgoku Bridge, but none are so striking and memorable as the first, in the early Tōto Meisho series, and the last, in the 100 Views of Edo, both in this collection. Where the first print achieved its drama from a striking novelty of its perspective, this print is set apart by its distance, as though Hiroshige had already left his beloved city in spirit and was watching it, set out against the summer night, not as a participant, but as a departing guest. In the early print it is the solid, durable, and heavy piling of the piers beneath the bridge that were the frame and focus of the print; here the fragile, soon-extinguished glory of summer fireworks. In the early print, the changing but constant moon bathes the scene with tranquil light, while here the tranquility is of a dark and starless night.

The earliest impressions of this print have a blaze of yellow light around the fireworks, a moment’s flash, that is missing on all the other impressions, like this one here, where the blazing lights have gone out, and the fragments hang a moment in the sky before twinkling out and leaving the sky forever.

Reproduced in: Ingelheim catalogue, no. 141.