Utagawa Toyoharu, 'Boating and Fireworks on the Sumida River'

Utagawa Toyoharu, 'Boating and Fireworks on the Sumida River'

Utagawa Toyoharu (1735-1814)
'Boating and Fireworks on the Sumida River'
Uki-e ('floating picture' or 'perspective print'), nishiki-e (brocade print)
Ôban size
Signature: Utagawa Toyoharu ga
Publisher: Nishimuraya Yohachi
Museum no. E.652-1901

This print is known as a uki-e or 'floating picture' or 'perspective print'. Such prints use an exaggerated, receding perspective, derived from examples of imported European art. By using this perspective device, Toyoharu brought a new and exotic flavour to the genre of the landscape print.

Prints with landscape features had been produced in the first half of the 18th century, but the landscape was generally confined to the background. Under Toyoharu's influence the landscape genre expanded to become one of the mainstreams of ukiyo-e.

Ryôgoku Bridge, on the Sumida River, was completed in 1661, and public squares were built to the east and west of it. Street performances and side-shows resulted in its becoming the most popular amusement centre in Edo, particularly during the summer months.

During the summer the river was thronged with pleasure boats which converged from all over Edo, and each night customers on the boats would compete to launch the most spectacular fireworks. In this print, the liveliness of the area is skilfully conveyed, while to the upper right, the moon looms boldly against a background of silver-grey and red.

The five naked figures in the water near the rocks at the far end of the bridge may be pilgrims, since it was here that pilgrims preparing to set out for Mount Ôyama, in modern Kanagawa Prefecture, purified their minds and bodies.


This print can be found in Japanese Print Room Box JP1.