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HIROSHIGE Japanese Woodblock Print THE MOON PINE AT SHINOBAZU POND 1856

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HIROSHIGE Japanese Woodblock Print THE MOON PINE AT SHINOBAZU POND 1856

HIROSHIGE

Kiyomizu Hall and Shinobazu Pond at Ueno

Number 11 from the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

Date: originally published 4/1856, this Showa era from recarved wood blocks
Size: oban, approx. 10.5" x 15.75"
Condition: VG, minor flaws with a few foxing spots and overall even toning, otherwise fine
Impression: Fine, solid key lines, excellent registration and surface texture
Color: VG, deep saturated color and excellent bleed through to verso
Documentation: One Hundred Famous Views of Edo Brazillier, 1986, print 11 

THE MOON PINE TREE also appears in print number 84 from the series as part of a much closer view of it in its setting on Shinobazu Pond. Here it is seen from a distance from another angle. 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.

The Kiyomizu Hall of Kan'eiji Temple in Ueno Park remains known even today for the splendor of the cherry blossoms in its vicinity and for the view it offers over Sinobazu Pond. The modern view is diminished by a row of multistory buildings around the pond, but even in Hiroshige's day the actual panorama was rather less spectacular than suggested in this print, in which the veranda extending out from the temple seems improbably wide and the pine trees, which appear elsewhere in books illustrated by Hiroshige as reaching only up to the level of the veranda, are shown as towering giants. One suspects that in adapting to the unaccustomed vertical format of One Hundred Famous View of Edo, the artist was sometimes forced into unnatural exaggeration.

The Kiyomizu Hall was founded in 1631 as part of the ambitious plan of Tenkai -- a Tendai priest and one of Tokugawa Ieyasu's chief mentors -- to establish a great Buddhist temple complex in Edo which would be comparable in function to that of Enryakuji on Mt. Hiei, northeast of Kyoto. Kan'eiji was intended to provide spiritual defense of the city from the northeast, the dangerous direction whence evil spirits came.



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