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Aoi Slope, Outside Toranomon Gate, No. 113 from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

Utagawa Hiroshige

Asian Art

Why are two half-naked figures out on such a chilly night? It was customary for artisan apprentices to engage in kan-mairi, wintry nighttime visits to temples and shrines where they would bathe in icy water to temper their bodies and offer prayers to the gods for the refinement of their skills. These two apprentices are returning from a visit to Konpira Shrine, which lay directly behind and to the right. Like the bundled figures on Aoi Slope to the left, they carry lanterns; the lantern of the shorter apprentice bears the name of the shrine god, Konpira Daigongen. The other apprentice also holds a small bell, which he rings as they hurry bravely through the cold.

MEDIUM Woodblock print
  • Place Made: Japan
  • DATES 11th month of 1857
    PERIOD Edo Period, Ansei Era
    DIMENSIONS Sheet: 14 3/16 x 9 1/4 in. (36 x 23.5 cm) Image: 13 3/8 x 8 3/4 in. (34 x 22.2 cm)  (show scale)
    MARKINGS Publisher: Shitaya Uo Ei
    SIGNATURE Hiroshige-ga
    ACCESSION NUMBER 30.1478.113
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Anna Ferris
    PROVENANCE Prior to 1930, provenance not yet documented; by 1930, acquired by Anna Ferris of Summit, NJ; 1930, gift of Anna Ferris to the Brooklyn Museum.
    Provenance FAQ
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION To the left in this view is the Aoi Slope of the title, along which some people, obviously chilled by the cold air, are walking with the aid of their lanterns. The water pouring over the spillway to the right is the overflow from Tameike Pond, which fell into the Outer Moat and passed by the Toranomon Gate (not seen here). The two large barren trees to the left are hackberry trees from which Enoki Slope (further to the left) took its name. At right is Sanno Hill and the gray temple buildings of Sanno Shrine. In the foreground, the two almost naked figures are artisan apprentices; it was their custom at the coldest time of the year to visit temples and shrines at night and bathe in the icy water and offer prayers to the gods for the refinement of their skills. The younger apprentice carries a lantern which bears the name of the shrine god, Konpira Daigongen, while the older one is ringing a small bell. Behind the stray dogs are the portable stalls of noodle vendors, hung with red lanterns. Tameike Pond was drained and leveled in the mid-1880's and Aoi Slope now survives as a street in front of Toranomon Hospital.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Utagawa Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797–1858). Aoi Slope, Outside Toranomon Gate, No. 113 from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, 11th month of 1857. Woodblock print, Sheet: 14 3/16 x 9 1/4 in. (36 x 23.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Anna Ferris, 30.1478.113 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 30.1478.113_PS20.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 30.1478.113_PS20.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2023
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