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Archive: Sadanobu (貞信)

Ryôanji yuki akebono (Ryôan Temple in the Snow at Daybreak: 龍安寺雪曙) Series: Miyako meisho no uchi (Set of Famous Views of the Capital [Kyoto]: 都名所之内)
Sadanobu ga (貞信画)
No artist seal
Osaka Wataya Kihei-ban (大坂綿屋喜兵衞板)
Circa 1870-71
(H x W)
Chûban nishiki-e
17.6 x 24.8 cm
Very good color and overall condition (unbacked; tiny repaired wormhole in upper right corner, light stray pigment streak to left of tallest pine tree in middle)
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry: SDN18


The series Miyako meisho no uchi (Set of Famous Views of the Capital [Kyoto]: 都名所之内) is known to include at least 30 designs. The original wrapper for this series had an alternate title: Miyako meisho shashin kagami (A mirror of famous views of the Capital [Kyoto]— truthfully copied: 都名所写真鏡). It followed closely upon the publication in 1856-58 of Utagawa Hiroshige's Meisho Edo hyakkei (One Hundred Views of the Famous Places in Edo). Without denying the debt owed to the Edo master, there has been some debate over whether to judge Sadanobu's efforts in this and related series as mere copying of Hiroshige or as a reworking of his imagery and style to reflect Sadanobu's intimate knowledge of the Kamigata region. The scholar Matsudaira Susumu believed that other influences included ehon meisho (illustrated books of famus places: 絵本名所) by such Kamigata artists as Shunchôsai whose contemplative style was similar to many Sadanobu fûkeiga (landscape prints: 風景画).*

The scholar R. Keyes (see TWOP in the Bibliography) has suggested that Sadanobu's landscapes signed with sha ("copied by") often owe a more direct debt to specific designs by Hiroshige, compared to those signed with ga or hitsu ("drawn by" or "painted by"), as in this example. However, "copied" is rather too strong a word for Sadanobu's adaptations, and it is not not always clear which Hiroshige compositions (depicting Edo or other locales) might have served as inspiration for particular Sadanobu designs. In the present instance, the elements of design fall squarely within the Hiroshige sphere of influence, but the arrangement of those elements are Sadanobu's own, presumably based on his knowledge of Kyoto and his artistic response to the scenes he wanted to portray.


Ryôanji yuki akebono (Ryôan Temple in the Snow at Daybreak: 龍安寺雪曙) shows a small group of visitors at the Zen temple (built circa fifteenth century) on land formerly belonging to the Fujiwara clan. It is celebrated for its karesansui (rock garden:枯山水) in which raked gravel and sand symbolize rippling water and where 15 rocks of various sizes are laid out in such a way that from various vantage points, one rock (differing depending on the angle) seems always to be out of the view of the onlooker. In Sadanobu's design, however, the scene switches to the garden pond where a child watches ducks.

Sadanobu's composition, while reminiscent of Hiroshige's works, clearly demonstrates his skill at depicting atmospheric fûkeiga (landscape prints: 風景画).

References: HSH, no. 182 (series)*