Artist: Utagawa Hiroshige
Title: The Suruga District in the Eastern Capital
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Many prints in the series “Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji ” depict the mountain from various views in the provinces. However, a number of the views are from the city of Edo (present-day Tokyo), which is just a few miles away. For numerous reasons, including pollution and over-building, these views are now obscured, but at one time Fuji was actually in Edo’s backyard. This scene of the Suruga District captures a view of city life in front of the famed Mitsukoshi Dry Goods store. It is a district just north of Nihonbashi Bridge in what is now called Muromachi san-chöme. Mitsukoshi is one of the great success stories in Japanese business and was unique in its time for demanding cash payment at the time of purchase instead of the traditional accounting system requiring payment over a period of time. Hiroshige uses single-point perspective to draw the viewer from the merry scene of manzai dancers dressed in the formal attire of the samurai and musicians in the foreground back into the space occupied by Mt. Fuji. His interest and ability with Western perspective were well known by this time in his career and, as with other print-makers, his designs frequently employed such devices. As with most of Hiroshige’s prints the artist strives to depict a real view but one which is enhanced by atmospheric conditions (such as the deep blue graded color at the top of the picture plane echoed by the deep blue near the slope of the mountain). This gradual wash that creates the bluish-tinged sky lends a feeling of evening descending on the group on the street. Manzai dancers were a traditional part of New Year’s Day festivities in which a comical dance was performed, so this scene reflects a chilly Edo sky. (from “View from an Enchanted Window: Hiroshige and Mt. Fuji” exhibition, 3/16/2006-)