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HIROSHIGE Japanese Woodblock Print HALL OF 33 BAYS 1857

Availability: 1 available

HIROSHIGE Japanese Woodblock Print HALL OF 33 BAYS 1857


Hall of Thirty-Three Bays, Fukagawa

Number 69 from the series 100 Famous Views of Edo

Date: originally published 8/1857, the print for sale is a Showa era strike from recarved wood blocks
Size: oban, approx. 10.25" x 15.25" overall
Condition: Fine, no flaws
Impression: Fine, excellent registration, solid key lines, surface texture
Color: Fine, deep saturated color and good bleed through to verso
Documentation: One Hundred Famous Views of Edo Brazillier, 1986, print 69

THE HALL OF THIRTY-THREE BAYS lay under the jurisdiction of the temple of Eitaiji, to the east of its famous gardens which are depicted in another print in this series. This view from behind the elongated hall at first seems monotonous, but actually it is a skillful expression of the use to which the long rear veranda was put: it was an archery range, and Hiroshige's depiction conveys the sense of a speeding arrow. A shooting trial in fact seems to be under way here, since the heads of all the spectators in the foreground are turned to the left, watching the course of an arrow as the archer shoots from a seated position at the south end of the veranda to the right. The contestants were expected to shoot the arrows so that they stayed within the confines of the veranda, clearing the length of the building without hitting any part of it. Speed was as important as accuracy, and the all-time record was set in the early summer of 1839, when a ten-year old prodigy managed within the space of ten hours to shoot 12,015 arrows, all but 255 of which cleared the veranda -- an accuracy rate of 98 percent at the speed of one arrow every three seconds.

The origin of the Hall of Thirty-Three Bays is a revealing commentary on Edo culture. The structure was built in 1642 as a replica of a famous building of the same name in Kyoto, which had been constructed in the twelfth century to house a spectacular array of 1,001 images of Kannon, a testament to the piety of the Heian aristocracy. In the Edo version, however, the religious motive was purely secondary; the real concern was to replicate the medieval custom of using the rear veranda as an archery range.

It was not a pious aristocrat, then, but an archery master of Edo who proposed the building to the bakufu as a way of encouraging the martial arts. In its length of almost 400 feet, the Edo replica was equal to the Kyoto original, but it was less than half the width and housed only a single Thousand-Armed Kannon image. What was the back of the Kyoto structure became, in effect, the front in Edo -- although, as we see in this print, the front apparently was put to good use for tea stalls and occasional worship.

At first, the hall was located in the Asakusa area (in what is now Matsugaya-cho). In 1644, two years after the building was constructed, the legal title to it  passed from the archer who had planned it, to the lumber supplier whom the archer could not afford to pay. When the hall burned down in 1698, the new owner decided to rebuild it adjacent to his own lumberyard in the Kiba area of Fukagawa. In the background of this view may be seen one of the many ponds to the east where lumber was stored.

With the persecution of Buddhists and the abolition of the samurai class in the wake of the Meiji Restoration, the Hall of Thirty-Three Bays became suddenly unwanted. It was torn down in 1972, eventually making more space for the lumber merchants.  -- Henry D. Smith II

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