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Dyer's Quarter, Kanda (Kanda Kon'ya-cho) One Hundred Famous views of Edo
|| Second hand
||225mm x 340mm
Stirred by the autumn wind, long strips of freshly dyed cotton fabric hang from drying platforms erected high above dyers' shops in the Kanda district. We have here moved one mile north from the vantage point of Hiroshige's house in plate 73; the different angle can be gauged quite precisely by observing the leftward shift of the tall castle tower relative to Mount Fuji in the distance. This is, appropriately enough, the Fuji-View Tower (Fujimi no Yagura), which, with the Fushimi Tower to the south (visible in plate 73), stands today as the proudest survivor of Edo Castle.
The design here must have been inspired by the similar print "Fuji of the Dyers' Quarter" in Hokusai's One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku hyakkei, vol. II), published just over two decades earlier. Hiroshige has avoided, however, the witty contrivance of Hokusai's view, in which a bamboo pole pokes up from an unseen hand below and hangs a wet strip on the rack. He has concentrated rather on the movement in the wind and on the colors, patterns and textures of the fabrics.
To the left and right in the lower half of the view, we see light yukata fabric with large patterns in brown and indigo, designed for summer or the bath. Primary attention, however, is focused on the fabrics in the center. Every other strip is an exquisitely shaded alternation of blue and white, perhaps easier to achieve in a print than on a fabric; it is somewhat ironic that the color here is not the traditional indigo of the dyer but the imported Prussian blue of the printer.
On the other strips in the center appear monograms that lend a personal touch to a composition otherwise lacking in human presence, much as Hokusai's pole from below suggested a hidden hand. The fabric here will be made into tenugui, cotton strips that were used as towels and head bands and that became a common gift and souvenir item in the Edo period; they remain so today. Great care went into the custom design of tenugui. Those in the foreground are a prime example, for they bear the "fish" mark of the publisher Uoei here cleverly written so that it resembles the hiragana "we," pronounced ue and hence an abbreviation of "Uoei." The strips in the background bear the lozenge-shaped mark of Hiroshige himself; the inner shape reads "hi," the outer square "ro": "Hi-ro"shigei. It is characteristic of the artist's taste and humility that he has placed himself behind his publisher-and that his personal mark appears only this once in the entire series.
Carrying through the theme of dyeing, the actual texture of cloth is conveyed by the careful fabric-printing of the white ground on each of the monogrammed strips. As a finishing touch, the title cartouche is finished in an imitation of tie-dyed fabric. The Kanda Kon'ya-cho of the title was both a proper administrative name and an accurate description of the major trade conducted in this district. This sort of match was unusual in Hiroshige's day, by which time the early place names of the city had either become obscure or inappropriate. By the end of the Edo period, the dyeing profession was in fact scattered all over the city, and even Kanda Kon'ya-cho was fragmented into numerous parcels. Kohiyama cites a document of 1854, just three years before this print, which shows that only 4 7 of the 5 2 2 dyeing shops in the city were located in Kanda. Yet Kanda remained the traditional center of the trade. Dyeing flourished here into the early 1960s, and even today one can find some tenugui firms in the area, which lies just east of the Japan National Railways Kanda Station.
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 |