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HIROSHIGE Japanese Woodblock Print 100 EDO THE FAMOUS MOON PINE AT UENO 1857

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HIROSHIGE Japanese Woodblock Print 100 EDO THE FAMOUS MOON PINE AT UENO 1857


Moon Pine, Ueno

Number 84 from the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

Date: originally published 1857, the print for sale is a Showa era strike from recarved wood blocks published by Mokuhan 
Size: oban, approx. 10.25" x 15.25" overall
Condition: Fine, no flaws, uncirculated print
Impression: Fine, solid key lines, good texture
Color: Fine, deep saturated color, and bleed through
Documentation: One Hundred Famous Views of Edo Brazillier, 1986, print 89
This famous tree also appears in print number 11 from the series as part of a much wider panorama over Shinobazu Pond. Here it is as though the artist had moved in with a telephoto lens, peering directly through the looped branch of this curious tree.

the angle here is slightly different from that in the earlier view. Instead of the eastern approach to the Benten Shrine in the middle of the pond, we now see the southern part of the island on which the shrine was situated, wit the red of the main sanctuary barely visible to the lower right. On the far shore is a row of commoners' houses, now Ikenoha 1-2 chome; above, we can make out three separate fire towers, which lay within the compounds of various daimyo estates on the Hongo rise. The tower that appears within the loop of the pine is probably that of the main estate of Maeda, lord of Kaga; today this land belongs to Tokyo University.

In Edo, there was a particular taste for naming trees that were distinguished by their age or their form. Pine trees, which tend to live long and grow in strange shapes, were the most common of these, and four other prints in this series include the name of a famous pine in the title. Of all of these, the Moon Pine appears to have been the least known, for no reference to it has been discovered in any contemporary accounts; Hiroshige's two prints in this series are the only evidence we have of its location and appearance.

Fortunately, however, information about the tree does survive in Ishii Kendo's commentary of 1919, when people could still remember it. He informs us that it was in fact a celebrated tree, also known as the Rope Pine, presumably after its resemblance to a loop of rope. The name "Moon Pine" referred not only to the full round shape we see here, but also to various other phases of the moon that could be discerned by looking at the tree from different angles. Hiroshige's design is thus no more contrived than the way in which the tree was actually seen at the time. Ishii relates that the famous branch was blown off in a storm in the early Meiji period.

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