Andō Hiroshige
Fox Fires on New Year’s Eve at the Enoki Tree near Ōji Inari Shrine
1857, 9th month

Signed: Hiroshige ga; ōban, 39.5 x 24.5 cm; nishiki-e with fukibokashi + kirazuri

Print 118 from “One Hundred Views of Famous Places in Edo”. The shrine in Ōji is dedicated to the fox deity Inari. According to an old legend, every New Year’s Eve all of the foxes gather at the shrine and put on ceremonial vestments in order to make a pilgrimage to the deity. On their way they are accompanied by small flames. This is an excellent print with clear traces of the baren in the sky, in the overprinted dark green of the hill in the background, and the overprinted dark grey of the shadows which evoke a unique tranquillity and mysterious atmosphere.

Lilla S. Perry, Los Angeles (Sotheby’s, July 1966, no. 141)

The Inari Shrine at Oji, to the north of Edo, was dedicated to the fox god. According to legend, every New Year’s Eve every fox in the great Kantō plain gathered under the old hackberry tree at the shrine and put on their ceremonial attire to greet the New Year. On this night the fires that accompanied them could be seen by neighbouring villagers.

This impression, with strong marks of the rope-coiled baren in the sky, deep green overprinting on the hill in the distance, and shadow printed over shadow in dark grey, create an effect of silence and mystery that have made this one of the most sought-after and best-loved prints in this series.

Louis V. Ledoux, who did as much as any man to spread enthusiasm for and confuse scholarship about the Japanese print, maintained that there were two distinct states of this print, before and after “an imperfection like a knothole near the lower left-hand corner”. (Hokusai to Hiroshige, no. 51). A late impression, with this “knothole” showing very clearly is reproduced in The Vignier and Inada catalogue (Toyokuni, Hiroshige, no. 318, pl. LXXXVI). What is obvious, however, is that the Vignier and Inada impressions, as indeed, all late impressions, lack the overprinting on the bottom of the print and elsewhere that so admirably conveys the effects of night and deep shadow. This overprinting is black, and would effectively conceal the “knothole” in the lighter grey block over which it is printed.

Reproduced in: Ingelheim catalogue, no. 141b.