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Fireworks at Ryôgoku Bridge, from the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (1857)

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About the Art

Hiroshige depicted the firework displays by Ryogoku Bridge over the Sumida river over 50 times, clearly besotted by the display and the pleasures of a beautiful summer’s night.

The deep, dark Bokashi shading of the black night sky and the deep blue of the water contrasted against the bright lights of the fireworks overhead, creating a chiaroscuro effect.

The first official firework display by Ryogoku bridge was commissioned by the eighth Tokugawa Shogun and staged in 1733. The symbolic opening of the river on the 28th day of the fifth month was part of a purification ritual designed to drive away the evil spirits.

Firework displays over the bridge were not limited to this official ceremony. Throughout the hot summer months, boat-hire operators and restaurant has sponsored numerous displays, as the exciting spectacle was good for business.

Alongside the simple boats we can see palace boats which provided space for large functions and were hired by wealthy merchants. Food and drinks could be bought from tradesmen operating boards illuminated by a single lantern, which moved between the other boats. Hiroshige includes all the various classes of boats in this print.

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