Utagawa Hiroshige II (1826-1869) also used the name Shigenobu (重宣). His family name was Suzuki 鈴木 and given name: Chinpei 鎮平. He used the art surname Utagawa 歌川 as well as other art names, Ichiyûsai 一幽斎(c. 1853-58), Ryûsai (c. 1859-63), Ichiryûsai 一立斎 (c. 1860-61), Risshô/Ryûshô 立祥, and Kisai 喜斎 (from 1865). In 1858, he married Utagawa Hiroshige I's daughter Otatsu after the master's death and inherited the Hiroshige name. He relocated from Edo to Yokohama in 1865 after the breakup of his marriage and began using the name Kisai Risshô (喜斎立祥; alternate pronunciation: Ryûshô). During this decade he produced a number of collaborative prints in series, notably with Utagawa Kunisada, the eminent designer of yakusha-e (actor prints) and bijinga (prints of beautiful women) who had also worked with Hiroshige I. In his final years Hiroshige II turned mainly to decorating works intended for export, such as tea chests, kites, and lanterns.
Sarauwaka was the new theater district (in reality a single street) relocated to Asakusa in Edo, rebuilt after a fire in 1841, featuring three theaters (Nakamura-za, Ichimura-za, Morita-za) and teahouses. The street was named after Saruwaka Kanzaburô, the founder of Edo kabuki. The theaters were identifiable by boxed turrets (yagura) on the roofs above each entrance (see the black turrets with their mon or crests in the present example).
Hiroshige II provides a bird's-eye view of Sarukawa-machi. Banners and turrets identify the various retail shops and theaters as excited patrons crowd the street. This view through "finger" clouds or mist represents a mannerist affectation common to the works of the first Hiroshige, and thus a tradition continues here in a rather colorful interpretation, with the bright purple and softer pinks and yellows evoking a vibrant scene in the Edo theater district.
Our example is an especially early impression.
Other impressions are in the MFAB (Acc #06.1733, 11.20546, 11.26408 Bigelow Coll.); and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.