print

Porters load and unload horses as they prepare for the next stage of their journey. Most travellers walked along the Tōkaidō, but at each station porters, palanquins, bearers and horses could be hired to transport people or baggage. While most of the prints in the series combined landscape and figures, Hiroshige varied the emphasis of his views widely: in some prints the scenery dominated, in others people and landscape were given equal weight; here the focus is entirely on human activity.

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  • Catalogue text

    At the station of Fujieda (in modern Shizuoka Prefecture), teams of porters load and unload horses as they prepare for the next stage of their journey. Station officials – one with what looks like an account book talking to the leader of the group and one sitting in the office at the back, high above the fray – supervise the operation. Most travellers walked along the Tōkaidō, but at each station porters, palanquins, bearers, horses and grooms could be hired to transport people or baggage. They worked as relay teams, going back and forth between two stations. At the top of the picture two palanquins and a horse stand ready for hire. The large package held by the two porters at the centre of the print bears a small sign that reads Hoeidō, the name of the publisher of the series.
    While most of the prints in the series combined landscape with figures, Hiroshige varied the emphasis of his views widely; in some prints the scenery dominated, in others, people and landscape were given equal weight; in some, like this scene, the focus was entirely on human activity. His depictions of travellers on the Tōkaidō, especially the lower-class workers, were frequently imbued with a warm sense of humour, reminiscent of Maruyama-Shijō school models. That this is a late impression is clear from the many breaks in the black outlines, from the coarse wiping of the blocks evident in the bokashi gradation in the foreground, and in the way the red colour block has become saturated, resulting in the loss of detail in the textile patterns.

    In: Pollard, Clare, Mitsuko Ito Watanabe, Landscape, Cityscape: Hiroshige Woodblock Prints in the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2014)

Further reading

Pollard, Clare, Mitsuko Ito Watanabe, Landscape, Cityscape: Hiroshige Woodblock Prints in the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2014), no. 5, p. 46, illus. p. 47

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