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Plum Estate, Kameido (Kameido Umeyashiki) One Hundred Famous views of Edo
|| New reproduction
||225mm x 340mm
In one of the most stunning compositions of the entire series, Hiroshige brings us face to face with the "Sleeping Dragon Plum" (Garyubai), the most famous tree in Edo. We are so close that the air is thick with the powerful fragrance that was one of its several distinctions, having lured the shogun Yoshimune as he passed nearby in the early eighteenth century and thereby assured its fame. Also celebrated was the purity of its double blossoms, "so white when full in bloom as to drive off the darkness," according to one Edo guidebook.
By far the most unusual feature of the Garyubai, however, was its peculiar manner of growth, by which certain branches spreading out from the original trunk would droop low to the ground, enter the soil, and re-emerge at a distance to create new trunks. In this manner, the tree was constantly rejuvenated and by Hiroshige's time had spread over an area some 50 feet square. The image of the "sleeping dragon" came from the way in which the reproducing branches looped across the ground.
Certain small details in Hiroshige's view bear witness to the special nature of the tree. Along the margin to the upper left we can make out the corner of a wooden signboard, identifiable from Hiroshige's many other views of the same site (for example, Matsuki, fig. 240), bearing the title "Garyubai." For this reason, it was surrounded by a low fence to keep people from pressing too near, as we see in the distance; Hiroshige has thus given us a privileged point of view within the territory of the tree. The strange pattern of the tree's growth is seen in the middle distance to the right, where one flowering branch seems to have entered the ground from the left, and behind it a row of trunks emerging from the ground look rather like branches themselves. This print was one of two in the series (together with pi. 58) that so caught the attention of Vincent van Gogh that he executed a careful copy in oils in 1887. The contrasts between the copy and the original are instructive: whereas van Gogh's colors impart a sense of passion and youthfulness, the subtly muted green, rose, and gray of the original create a far more sedate effect. In particular, the careful shading of the gnarled trunks of the tree gives a sense of its great age, in effective contrast to the parallel sense of regeneration symbolized by the straight new shoots.
Both culturally and pictorially, Hiroshige's view offers depths that van Gogh, in his fascination with the flat and graphic qualities of the print, could afford to ignore.
The Sleeping Dragon Plum survived as the central attraction of the Plum Estate (Umeyashiki, also known as the Seikoan, or "fragrant retreat") in Kameido until it was killed (or at least fatally damaged) by the great flood of 1910. Today nothing survives except a stone roadside marker in a sea of small factories and shops.
Smith H.D and Poster A.G., Hiroshige, One Hundred Famous views of Edo., George Braziller Inc., 1st edn., 4th reprint , 1986Summary Page | Home | landscapes | Previous Picture | Next Picture |