The Ryogoku Bridge (the Double-Province Bridge) was so named because it was built over the Sumida River between the Musashi and Shimousa Provinces, and the neighbourhood around the bridge was called Ryogoku. It was once the premier amusement quarter of Edo (now Tokyo), busy night and day with show houses, theatres, itinerant story-tellers and stalls. Accounts at the time describe the hustle and bustle as; the river surface, fully covered with pleasure boats, looked as if it were a piece of land; the stream beautifully reflected the lights of night stalls; or the noise of party music disturbed the vicinity.
In the Edo period, the fireworks at Ryogoku were a famous summer evening attraction, with so many spectators that traffic was often controlled. Although many artists competed in depicting this great event, there were no pictures better than this piece by Hiroshige who excelled in drawing famous places of Edo.
This splendid print impressively depicts the big circles of fireworks displayed one after another against the jet-black night sky. Hiroshige's remarkable talent is demonstrated in the composition by his adopting the bird's eye view of the scene, where he drew in silhouette the crowds on the bridge and many boats floating on the river, to emphasize the scale, height, and brightness of the fireworks. This print carries on the margin, the record of inspection by the shogunate government dated August 1858. The fact that he died September 6 that year shows us the greatness of Hiroshige who had never ceased to pursue new ways of expression.
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