Variant Shōtei Print Designs

What's the story?

Collectors have been wondering about variant Shōtei designs for quite a while. These two prints are an excellent example.

The seal in the upper right corner, format L in the seal collection, is from the horizontal print (M-14 in the catalog), which I feel comfortable calling an original Shōtei print, published by Watanabe. The artist's seal just below, which reads "Fusō", is from the vertical print. There is no mention of the artist Fusō in any references. In fact, the word means "Japan".

These prints are too similar to call it a coincidence. I have considered 2 possible explanations.

Pre- and Post-Earthquake versions?

Watanabe's print publishing business was totally destroyed in the fires which resulted from the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923. All of the blocks and finished prints were lost to the fire.

In his 1936 catalog write-up about Takahashi Hiroaki, Watanabe wrote: "After the Disaster, he produced again with utmost care about one-third of the original numbers, ranging from Small Card Size up to Three Cuts.". "Three Cuts" refers to the Mitsugiri-ban format.

Therefore, a possible explanation for these variant prints is that one of these 2 prints is a lost pre-earthquake version, while the other is the result of reproducing it "with the utmost care". If this were the case, the vertical print would be the pre-earthquake version, because the horizontal print is clearly pictured on page 51 of Watanabe's 1936 catalog, as available for sale, 13 years after the earthquake.

Plagiarism?

On Oban format prints, sometime between 1923 and 1926, Watanabe stopped using his distinctive round publisher's seal within the image and started using one of several cartouche publisher's seal designs in the margins. The explanation for this shift is that Watanabe's commercial success led to plagiarism of his designs by other print publishers. The cartouche seals contained an explicit copyright statement, protecting Watanabe's ownership position. However, Watanabe never used a copyright message on any of his smaller format prints.

It is my opinion that the vertical print above was plagiarized from the design of the horizontal print. Apparently, the use of a Shōtei seal was considered off limits by the publisher, even though he seems to have considered stealing the design to be OK. The publisher of the vertical print created an artist's name and seal to make it look legitimate.

Sorting it out...


In this set of example prints ("Spring Evening", M-12 in the catalog), both are sealed Shōtei, and they certainly show the results of being "produced again with the utmost care". While it's not immediately apparent, a careful examination (click on the double image for a closer look) clearly shows that the 2 prints were produced from different sets of blocks. Therefore, I believe that these are an example of the pre-earthquake / post-earthquake scenario, both having been published by Watanabe. The print on the left is displayed on page 51 of the 1936 catalog (post-earthquake). Therefore, the print on the right would be the pre-earthquake version.

Until there is more evidence about this issue, I will use the following set of rules when evaluating variant prints:

  • If they are both sealed as Shōtei and/or Hiroaki, they must be considered to be pre-earthquake and post-earthquake versions of the same image, directly designed by Mr. Takahashi.
  • All prints sealed Kakei are pre-earthquake prints designed by Takahashi Shōtei. There is not any record of a post-earthquake print sealed Kakei.
  • If one has a seal not in the seal collection, it is strongly suspect as plagiarized. It's probably still a very nice print, but it's not the real goods.
  • No print image will be accepted into the catalog unless it bears a recognized seal.

Please see the Recognizing pre- vs. post-earthquake prints page for a discussion of some of the possible strategies which can be used to determine which is which.

More examples of variant designs

O-29 & C-7. Moonrise at Tokumochi


The oban print on the left, O-29, is margin dated April, 1922. The chuban print to the right, C-7, is listed as #197 in the Watanabe 1936 catalog.

I am calling these a pre- and post-earthquake set.

O-41 & M-21. Hunting fireflies in cool breeze


The oban print on the left, O-41, is very rare and certainly a pre-quake edition. The mitsugiri-ban print in the center, M-21, is listed as #220 in the Watanabe 1936 catalog. These are definitely a pre- and post-earthquake set.

The print to the right, with no seal, is plagiarized. In December, 2001 a copy of the plagiarized print came up for sale on ebay. It had a title and seal which are shown above, to the right. Title was "Tama River in Evening". The artist's seal read "Hazuki".

O-42 & M-19. Yushima-Tenjin Shrine


The oban print on the left, O-42, is very rare and certainly a pre-quake edition. It has a "Kakei" artist seal and a round Watanabe publisher seal.

For the 3 mitsugiri-ban prints to the right, comparing the patterns of the clouds in the sky, it is clear that they each came from different blocks. The seal on the print to the left probably reads "Meisetsu", but it could be translated as "Meisen" or "Meiju". The center print is clearly sealed "Shōtei" and is M-19 in the Shōtei catalog. The seal on the print to the right reads "Gyō", the same as one of the M-32 prints. I'm calling the Gyō and Meisetsu prints knock-offs.

O-69 Awabi Pearl Fisher


The print on the left has Hiroaki seal #5 within the image, and the Fusui Gabo publisher's seal in the right margin. This format of the print, with minor variations such as the artist's seal placement and paper orientation, has been well documented with multiple copies extant.

The variant print to the right, while seemingly having the same keyblock lines, has some notable differences:

  • Completely different treatment of the hair
  • A gap of color in the lower left corner
  • No publisher's seal to the right (however a red seal in the left margin is unread)
  • A never before seen Hiroaki seal variant, showing only the second character, aki
This variant was sold by a reputable dealer who called it either a preliminary proof or a "later state". I believe that it is neither. Rather, it looks to me like an unauthorized knock-off produced by a rogue printer who once had the original blocks in his possession and used them to make a knock-off.

C-3. Moon rising at Naganuma


The ai-zuri print at the top, sealed by Shōtei, was published by Watanabe and is a commonly seen post-quake print.

The multi-color print in the middle was found by a collector and has a Shōtei seal. I've never seen another copy of this version. It's probably the pre-quake precursor of the top print.

The knock-off print below is unsigned and unsealed, obviously derivative of the post-quake version.

C-8 & S-154. Chrysanthemums in red vase

Both of these prints are sealed "Shōtei" and were post-earthquake productions of Watanabe.

C-9. Night scene of Mabashi, near Tokyo


The chuban print on the left, sealed by Shotei, was published by Watanabe. The knock-off print on the right is from a notecard and is unsigned and unsealed.

C-21 & S-3. Temple of Kinugasa



The chuban print on the far left, sealed by Shōtei, published by Watanabe, was listed in the Ota-ku Folk Museum Shōtei Exhibition catalog as #121, a pre-quake print. This is a very rare version of this design and I see no reason to dispute that it is pre-earthquake.

The chuban print second from the left, sealed by Hiroaki, published by Watanabe, was listed in the Ota-ku Folk Museum Shōtei Exhibition catalog as #122, a post-quake print.

The koban print in the middle, S-3, sealed by Shōtei, was also published by Watanabe, who listed it as #164 in their 1936 catalog.

The mitsugiri-ban print to the right is unsigned, unsealed, and a clear knock-off.

C-29. Peddler in the snowy night


The chuban print on the left, C-29, sealed by Hiroaki, was published by Watanabe. The print to the right above is sealed Seki and a knock-off.

The smaller print below is sealed Tomoe which was a name used by Watanabe for knock-off prints of Shōtei designs. It's a mystery why Watanabe would associate a non-existent artist's name with a legitimate Shôtei design for which he held the copyright.

M-1. Nagareyama


The print on the left is M-1 in the Shōtei catalog. The print to the right is titled "Sagamigawa"; the artist's seal reads "Sekiyo" which means setting sun. It's a definite knock-off print. Adding more symbols (i.e. Fuji) to "enhance" a design was a common ploy by plagiarist publishers.

See M-87 (below) for a couple of horizontal variants of this design.

M-3. Katsushika


Both of these prints have a Shōtei seal, so I'm calling them a pre-/post-earthquake set. The one to the left is creped, but clearly shows a crescent moon. The version on the right has no moon.

Using the rarity strategy, to determine which is which, we have kept track of sightings for more than 10 years. As of May 5, 2014, there are 16 "No Moon Sightings" to 4 "Crescent Moon Sightings". Therefore, I am comfortable with saying that the Crescent Moon version is the pre-quake version. Since I believe that we've got this one sorted out, there is no reason to continue with registering sightings. Thanks to everyone for their help in getting to this point!

Crescent Moon Sightings:
1. Collection of Wayland Rogers
2. Collection of Alex von Wittig
3. Collection of Bart Visser
4. Antique store sighting by Corbin Miller (4/27/14)

No Moon Sightings:
1. Collection of Bruce Stewart
2. Collection of Marc Kahn
3. Collection of Marc Kahn
4. JPAA Sale #7 - 11/25/00 - Lot 55
5. Hanga.com sales gallery (as of 1/29/02)
6. "Collector's Value Guide to Japanese Woodblock Prints", p.120
7. Hotei Japanese Print Catalog #17
8. Collection of Laura Gutman
9. JPAA Sale #10 - 6/1/02 - Lot 195
10. Collection of Thomas Crosssland
11. AllinsonGallery.com
12. Collection of Chuck Meier
13. www.asianartschmitz.de online gallery
14. Collection of Bill Schwed
15. Collection of Greg Minkoff
16. Collection of Greg Minkoff

M-4 & M-150. Cold Winter Wind



The print on the left, M-150, is sealed "Kakei" with seal K4. It is the pre-quake version of this design.

The next print, second from the left, with Shōtei seal E, is M-4, the post-quake edition.

The third print from the left is a knock-off entitled "Wind blowing at Tsukuba", and is sealed "Shiwasu" which means "Year End".

The rightmost print is sealed "Gyō" and is therefore a knock-off print. However, like other knock-off prints with the same seal, this one is a beautifully executed copy, faithful to the original.

M-5. Returning woman in an autumn evening


The print on the left is from the 1910 Weeks family scrapbook and so, is a pre-earthquake print. The fan-shaped cartouche contains the number 42.

The print on the right is the post-earthquake version and is in the Shōtei catalog as M-5.

The print in the middle seems to share more carved woodblocks with the early one (see the shape of the trees and the path leading to the rising moon). Therefore, I'm calling the middle print a pre-quake variant.

M-6 & M-145. Evening at Shinagawa


The 2 prints on the left, each with the Kakei seal, are variants of M-145. Since the "Kakei" name was used only in the very early years of Watanabe's publishing business, I'm thinking that these are both pre-earthquake version prints. Please see the
Kakei page to understand why I think that "Kakei" is an art name used by Takahashi Shōtei. The third print, with Shōtei seal L, is the post-earthquake version. The one on the right, with the unrecognizable seal, is clearly plagiarized with the same design elements in slightly different positions.

The existence of 2 different versions of Kakei-sealed prints introduces some doubt into my major hypothesis that recarved blocks indicate a pre-/post-earthquake set and my other hypothesis that all works marked Kakei are pre-earthquake The scenario about how this happened which most fits my model is that this was a popular image in the early years, but the keyblock cracked and was made unusable, so sometime before the earthquake, they recarved the block set. However, caveat emptor. At the end of the day, these are all just guesses. Hopefully, they're good guesses.

M-7. Edomisaka


Each of these prints have a Shōtei seal. The most obvious difference is that the ones on the right have the moon. The one on the far right has a dog in the lower left. Also, the ones on the right have a title above the seal, indicating that they might be the post-earthquake version. But that's not a strong argument.

In April 2003, a much stronger case was made for the one on the left to be identified as the pre-quake version. Some folks got in touch with me to tell me about two prints, M-7 and M-9, which have been in their family since 1920. Their great-aunt was a missionary in Japan who died of typhoid in the early 1920s. These prints were a gift to her sister, the grandmother of the family. The M-9 is definitely pre-quake, with the moon opening to the right. Both prints are in the original mounting, each with a note about the gift dated 1920.

Having heard this case, I am now calling the moon-less version a pre-earthquake print. Proof by provenance, thanks to the Smith family of Columbus, Ohio!

The print on the far right is a rare variant which, on close inspection, appears to have been printed from predominantly the same block-set as the middle print. Look at the woodgrains in the sky around the moon, and the calligraphy in the title. But what about the dog? My best guess is that the dog was on the original state of the post-quake block-set. Shortly after the initial printing, perhaps because there was a problem with the key-block lines on the dog, he got carved away. I've only seen one copy with the dog included, this one, courtesy of Judy Buntin.

M-8. Shower at Terashima, passersby frustrated



The two prints on the left are both sealed Shōtei. The second (from the left) image appears on page 55 of the 1936 catalog. Therefore, I'm calling the print on the far left a pre-earthquake version.

The two prints on the right are knock-offs. The first one (third from the left) has a seal which reads "Hokusai". The seal on the rightmost one reads "Gyō".

M-9. Evening glow at Sakawa bridge


The print on the left has Shōtei seal "P" while the one on the right has seal "L". According to my rules these are, therefore, a pre- and post-earthquake set. Notice how the moon opens up in different directions. In the 1936 Watanabe catalog, on page 52, is a picture of the print on the right. So, the print on the left is the pre-earthquake version.

M-10. Sudden shower at Takaido; passengers at a loss


The print on the left has Shōtei seal "L" while the one on the right has seal "A". According to my rules these are, therefore, a pre- and post-earthquake set. The one on the right, a rarely seen variant, is creped and came from the same source with 2 other positively identified creped pre-earthquake prints. Therefore, I'm calling the one on the left post-earthquake; the one on the right pre-earthquake.

M-11. Sawatari in Joshu District


Both of these prints have Shōtei seals, and one of them seems to have been reproduced "with the utmost care". So, I'm calling them a pre- and post-earthquake set. How can we tell which is which? Looking at the shape of the path between the hiker and the building, we'll call the one on the left "Straight Path" and the one on the right "Crooked Path".

Using the rarity strategy, to determine which is which, let's keep track of sightings.

Straight Path Sightings:
1. Morra-JapaneseArt.com
2. JPAA Sale #7 - 11/25/00 - Lot 68
3. FloatingWorld.com
4. ArtOfJapan.com
5. Collection of Laura Gutman
6. Collection of William O'Rorke
7. Hotei's sale catalogue #17
8. Collection of Wayland Rogers
9. JapanesePrints.net
10. Collection of Jim Roche
11. Ukiyoe-gallery.com
12. Collection of Bill Schwed
13. Ebay auction; rdeals; 12/20/03
14. Artelino auction #141; 10/31/04
15. Ebay auction; 3764342593; 11/28/04
16. Collection of Don Rothenbaum
17. Collection of Karen Shearer
18. Ebay auction; 380638591266l; 8/2/13

Crooked Path Sightings:
1. Collection of Laura Gutman
2. JapanesePrints.net
3. Collection of Raymond Passaro

Conclusion: Over the 13 years that people reported sightings, there was a clear plurality of straight path prints seen. The rarity strategy suggests that the straight path print is the post-quake one and the crooked path is the pre-quake one. Happily, this conclusion has been confirmed by Shimizu Hisao in the 2005 Ota-ku Folk Museum Shōtei exhibition catalog where both prints are pictured (numbers 79 and 80) and dated consistent with the suggestion of the rarity strategy. QED.

M-12. Spring Evening


The print to the left is the pre-earthquake version of M-12 (see above for an explanation of both the pre- and post-earthquake versions).

The print in the middle is unsigned and unsealed. However, a kind contributor has sent me a picture of another copy from the same blocks with the artist's signature "Hiroshige".

The print to the right is yet another variant, with the seal reading "Kagetsu". The title on this print is "Yayoi" which signifies the month of March on the lunar calendar.

This design, or something very similar, was originally done by Hiroshige, as part of a larger print. So, if there was any plagiarism involved, the plagiarists would be Takahashi Shōtei and his publisher Watanabe Shōzaburō. Judging from the number of copies which show up for sale, this was a very popular print, which caused it to be copied yet again by other publishers.

M-13 & P-24. Moon at Sekiguchi


The print to the left, M-13 in the catalog, is a commonly seen mitsugiri-ban print, listed in the 1936 Watanabe catalog.

The print to the right, P-24 in the catalog, is the pre-earthquake original rendering of this scene.

M-14. Mt. Fuji in mist; mountain pass in front


The print on top is from the 1910 Weeks family scrapbook and so, is a pre-earthquake print.

The middle print, M-14 in the catalog, is pictured in the 1936 Watanabe catalog and is the post-earthquake version.

The print below is a rarely seen color variant of the post-quake version.

Each of these prints has a Shōtei seal.

M-15 and M-16. Night Shower at Izumi bridge



The 2 horizontal prints at the top have Shōtei seals and were both published by Watanabe. Both of these prints are in the Robert O. Muller collection with the notations of pre- and post-earthquake. The lower one (M-15) is the pre-earthquake edition. The upper one (M-16) is from after the disaster. The lowest horizontal print, with the unreadable gourd-shaped seal, is a knock-off.

The vertical print is signed by "Hiroshige" and is a knock-off of M-15.

M-17. A Starlight Night


This is a pre-/post-earthquake set.

The print on the top, with the seal and title shown on the left, is in the Shōtei catalog as M-17, the Watanabe 1936 catalog as #216, and is the post-earthquake version.

The print below has the Shōtei seal along with a five-petal cartouche containing the number "2". The cartouche identifies this as an early pre-earthquake print. If you look closely, you can see what may be yet another cartouche, but it's not completely clear.

M-18. Inume Pass


The print on the left is in the Shōtei catalog as M-18. The print on the right was listed in the JPAA 10th Sale on June 1, 2002. The seal above is from the print on the right.

I have been informed by Ivo Galli that while he is unable to get me a scan, he has a copy of M-18 (the print on the left) and that it has Shōtei seal A, which is the same pattern as the seal above.

Are these a pre-/post-earthquake set, or perhaps one keyblock with some re-carved color blocks? It's hard to say. I would very much like to examine these side-by-side with a magnifying lens.

M-23. Fireworks, Shubinomatsu



The print on the left has Shōtei seal L and is titled "Ogawa, Shubinomatsu". I can't make out the seal on the second print from the left, titled "Fireworks at Ryogoku" (see M-51). The 2 rightmost prints have no markings at all.

I suspect that the 3 prints to the right are all plagiarized.

M-24. Thunderstorm at Tateishi


The print on the left has a clear Shōtei seal.

The print on the right, from an online auction, has a seal reading (I believe) "Hotei". I'm calling it a knock-off.

M-26. Inari Shrine at Oji; peddler and woman


In the Watanabe catalog, this print (#225) is described as "Inari Shrine at Oji; pedler and woman" The print to the left shows a peddler, a woman, and what is probably Shōtei seal L. The print to the right, a plagiarized design with no peddler, is sealed "Hokusai".

M-27. Cherry blossoms at Sumida bank in the rain


The print to the left has a Shōtei seal.

The print to the right, a very accurately reproduced knock-off, is sealed "Gyō".

M-28. Mt. Fuji from Miho


The print to the left has a Shōtei seal.

The print to the right, with no seal or title, was attributed to Shōtei and sold by an on-line auction. I disagree with that attribution. By my standards, the print to the right is a knock-off.

M-32. Snow at Asakusa



The print at the right is an extremely well done knock-off. The seal reads Gyō.

You really have to look closely to see that they are printed from different blocks. I have included some high-res details for comparison. If you compare the snowflake pattern against the red wall of the pagodas, the branches in the trees, and the white dots on the black stones in the wall, you can see that they are certainly different. However, the re-carving was very carefully and skillfully done.

M-35. Spring snow


The print on the left, sealed "Hiroaki", is in the Shotei catalog as M-35.

The knock-off print on the right is titled "Flower Vendor" and the seal characters seem to read "Jyogetsu".

M-36. Moon rising at Nokizaki


The print on the left, sealed "Hiroaki", is in the Shotei catalog as M-36. It is in the 1936 Watanabe catalog as inventory number 245. It measures 37.5 x 16.4 cm.

The print on the right was found printed directly onto the front of a Christmas/New Year's card dated 1928-1929. It measures 10.6 x 5.2 cm. The "Hiroaki" seal is obscure, but still visible. Therefore, I'm calling them both post-earthquake editions. The small one is very seldom seen.

M-42. Cherry blossoms at Ueno Toshugo Shrine


The print on the left, sealed "Hiroaki", is in the Shotei catalog as M-42

The seal on the one in the middle, titled "Nikko Toshugo", reads "Rakutsuki" or "Gaggetsu" and it is an obvious knock-off.

The small format print on the right is unmarked and also a clear knock-off.

M-49. Snowy night with hazy moon


The print on the left has a Hiroaki seal. The seal on the one in the middle is unread, but certainly not either Shōtei or Hiroaki. The postcard sized print is unsealed.

I'm calling the 2 prints on the right knock-offs.

M-58 and P-18. Rural dance at the Feast of Lanterns


The print on the left, P-18, is signed "Hiroaki" and has a Rakutei seal. I don't have a clear enough picture of the seal of M-58, the print on the right to present it here, but I'm comfortable identifying it as a legitimate Shōtei print.

The pillar print format was not used by Shōtei after the earthquake, so P-18 is the pre- quake image. M-58, the post-quake print, is in Watanabe's 1936 catalog as inventory number 565.

M-67 & S-79. Evening at Tone River


The print above, S-79, has a Shōtei seal along with the distinctive 5-petaled flower cartouche containing the number 9, making it a very early pre-earthquake print. The print below, M-67, is also a pre-quake print, according to the Ota-ku Shōtei exhibition catalog.

M-69. Ohashi Bridge in Snow


The print on the left has a Shōtei seal with a numbered cartouche (47). This dates the print as very early (circa 1910), and certainly pre-earthquake.

The print on the right also has a Shōtei seal, not legible here, but I've seen it myself, so I know it's there. Notice the addition of the diagonal framing members. This is also a pre-earthquake edition, but a later one, more commonly seen.

M-72. Sudden Shower


The print on the left has seal A. Below the seal, contained in a fan shaped cartouche is the number "46", indicative of a pre-earthquake (and probably pre-1910) print. The seal on the print in the middle reads Shōtei, making these a pre- and post-earthquake set.

The smaller, creped print, with the integral "matting", is a knock-off, signed "Hiroshige" with an unread seal.

M-76. Rain at Igusa


This seems to be a pre/post earthquake set, but which is which?

The upper print, titled "Igusa no Ame", has the Shōtei seal shown on the left.

The owner of the lower print wasn't able to scan the seal for me, but was kind enough to draw the title and seal. The title is simply "Igusa"

Using the rarity strategy, to determine which is which, let's keep track of sightings.

"Igusa no Ame" Sightings:
1. Collection of Marc Kahn

"Igusa" Sightings:
1. Huys den Esch (June, 2002)

M-82. Full moon at Egota


The upper print has the Shōtei seal "Q", is rendered in greater detail than the lower print, and has a relatively clear sky around the moon.

The lower print has the Shōtei seal "W", is rendered more loosely than the upper print, and has a couple of dark cloud streaks both above and below the moon

This title "Full moon at Egota" is not included in Watanabe's 1936 catalog. Therefore this set could be a pre/post earthquake set, or perhaps 2 pre-quake variants.

Using the rarity strategy, to try to understand them better, let's keep track of sightings.

Upper version, seal "Q" sightings:
1. "The New Wave", plate #85

Lower version, seal "W" sightings:
1. Ota-ku Folk Museum exhibition catalog, plate #97
2. Collection of Aaron Packman
3. Collection of Ross Walker

M-87. Edo River


Both of these prints have Shōtei seals.

In the journal of the International Ukiyo-e Society, Ukiyo-e Art, Number 149, there is an extensive article on Shôtei, written by Shimizu Hisao, of the Ota-ku Folk Museum. Shimizu-san, in a discussion of these 2 prints, is calling the lower print (titled "Nagareyama") a pre-quake version and the upper print (titled "Edogawa") a post-quake version. Unfortunately, I haven't yet been able to translate the explanatory text from the original Japanese to understand his reasoning.

These 2 prints are very similar to M-1 (see above). The 1936 Watanabe catalog has "Sunset glow at Nagareyama; junks" as print number 201 with a small vertical rectangular symbol indicating that the print has a vertical orientation. I have seen the M-1 print many times for sale by galleries and in auction listings, but the M-87 horizontal format is rarely seen. My thought is that both of these horizontal prints may be pre-quake variants, but I'm reluctant to claim that as a certainty until I have a chance to study Shimizu-san's explanatory text.

M-92. Rain over Makura Bridge


Both of these prints have Shōtei seal Q. Additionaly, the print on the top, from the
1910 Weeks family scrapbook has the 5-petaled flower cartouche containing the number "12". So the top print is pre-earthquake.

The bottom print is from the Robert O. Muller collection, but is lacking the flower cartouche.

At first, I suspected that these might be from different blocks and that the bottom one might be a post-earthquake edition. However, another collector has found another print, close in coloration to the bottom one, with the same flower cartouche as the top one. Now, I'm thinking that these are both pre-earthquake prints, albeit with some significant color variation.

M-107 & M-144. Nihonmatsu


The print on the left, with the "Kakei" seal, is M-144. Since the "Kakei" name was used only in the very early years of Watanabe's publishing business, I have concluded that this is the pre-earthquake version. Please see the
Kakei page to understand why I think that "Kakei" is an art name used by Takahashi Shōtei. The middle print, M-107 with Shōtei seal Q, is the post-earthquake version.

However, the print second from the right is an absolutely outrageous knock-off, signed by none other than Hiroshige. Looking at the Kakei and Shotei versions, it becomes obvious what is needed to sell this image to tourists. Clearly, it needs Fuji, a rickshaw, and a quaint lamp-post. As the owner of this print asks, "Where is the rickshaw going? In the water?"

The smaller print, far right, is another Hiroshige-signed knock-off.

M-108. Senzoku Pond & C-17. Itako

The houses, their surroundings, and the reflection on the water pull these 2 prints together, making them variants in my mind. However, Senzoku Pond is in Tokyo, far from Itako.

I have a copy of each of these prints in my collection. Examining them both, I am convinced that the chuban Itako is a post-earthquake print and that the mitsugiri-ban Senzoku Pond is considerably older work, so I'm calling it pre-earthquake. No hard evidence. That's just the way it feels to me.

S-1. River Sumida in snow; houseboat

The print on the left is sealed Shōtei. The one on the right, sealed "Tomoe", is a knock-off.

S-9. Evening glow on pagoda in deep wood

The print on the left is sealed Shōtei. The one in the middle, sealed Rakutei is pictured in the 1936 Watanabe catalog on page 30. I'm calling these a pre-/post-earthquake set with the one on the left being the pre-quake edition. The print on the right, sealed "Hiroshige" is a knock-off.

S-10. Singers of popular songs

The print on the left is sealed Shōtei. The one on the right, signed Hiroshige, has the seal of the Shima Art Company, well-known source of knock-off prints.

S-23, S-44, & S-34. Moonlight at Ohashi bridge

These are all small prints, but they are presented here with relative sizing.

The print on the left is S-23 in the Shōtei catalog. The seal is from this print. It contains the cartouche with the number 6, which is evidence of a very early Shōtei print. Definitely pre-earthquake.

The creped print in the middle is S-44. It has Watanabe inventory number 547 stamped on the paper to which it is attached. In the 1936 Watanabe catalog, that number refers to a Shōson print. Therefore, I am calling S-44 a pre-earthquake print.

On the right is S-34, which was found in a package of Watanabe small print samples, each of which has a post-earthquake inventory number consistent with the 1936 catalog either stamped or hand-written on the backing paper. This one is #54 (hand-written), and is a post-earthquake edition.
For a discussion about how to use Watanabe's inventory numbers to determine whether a print is pre- or post-earthquake,
click here.

S-24 & S-52. Fete; Street stalls; Strollers

These are both small prints, presented here with relative sizing.

The print on the left is S-52 in the Shōtei catalog. It is from the 1910 Weeks family scrapbook and so, is a pre-earthquake print. The fan-shaped cartouche contains the number 31.

On the right is S-24, which was found in a package of Watanabe small print samples, each of which has a post-earthquake inventory number consistent with the 1936 catalog either stamped or hand-written on the backing paper. This one is #792 (hand-written), and is a post-earthquake edition.

S-37 & S-55. Rising sun and junks; golden sky

These are both small prints, presented here with relative sizing.

The print on the left is S-55 in the Shōtei catalog. It is from the 1910 Weeks family scrapbook and so, is a pre-earthquake print. The fan-shaped cartouche contains the number 32.

On the right is S-37, which was found in a package of Watanabe small print samples, each of which has a post-earthquake inventory number consistent with the 1936 catalog either stamped or hand-written on the backing paper. This one is #791 (hand-written), and is a post-earthquake edition.

S-48 & S-89. Moonrise at mountain village

These prints are presented here with relative sizing.

The print to the right is #44 in the 1936 Watanabe catalog, and therefore a post-earthquake print. Sorry, but I don't have a legible seal image to show for this print.

The print to the left is listed on page 30 of the Ota-ku Folk Museum exhibition catalog as #142. The dating given on this print is pre-earthquake, and I agree with this assessment.

The print in the middle looks to me to be a color variant from the same blocks as the print on the left. The unexpected oddity is that there are 2 different seals used and they are placed in different corners. My thought is that artists' seals are almost always included in the carved blockset, but this example, if truly from the same blocks, shows an exception to that rule.

S-68 & S-134. Flying heron in snow and blue water

These are both small prints, presented here with relative sizing.

The print on the left is S-134 in the Shōtei catalog. Measuring 13.5 x 6.5 cm, it must be considered to be a pre-earthquake print.

On the right is S-68, which was found in a package of Watanabe small print samples, each of which has a post-earthquake inventory number consistent with the 1936 catalog either stamped or hand-written on the backing paper. This one is #29, and is a post-earthquake edition.

S-72. Kanegafuchi in snow; river Sumida

The unsealed, unsigned upper print is recognized as a Shōtei print because it was found with its inventory number 374 in a Watanabe samples book. The 1936 catalog shows this inventory number to be a Shōtei print.

The lower print is from a postcard with Watanabe's name on the back as publisher. It has a Shōtei seal. Both prints have the same Japanese characters in the title. The lower print may be either the pre-earthquake version of this print, or it may be a variant made by Watanabe for the purpose of publishing postcards. I lean toward the pre-earthquake interpretation.

S-76. Lighthouse

Both of these prints have a Shōtei seal. In addition, the upper one has the numbered cartouche with the Japanese digit "8", making it a certified early work. With such a low number, this is probably very early, circa 1907 or 1908.

The lower print is very similar, but upon close examination you can see that it is from a different block set. It may be a post-quake edition, or it may be a later pre-quake edition. I don't know. Copies of either of these images are pretty rare.

S-93. Shinagawa

Both of these prints have a Shōtei seal.

The print to the left is identified in the Ota-ku Folk Museum exhibition catalog (page 32, #145) as a pre-quake print.

The creped print to the right has some noteable differences, especially the position of the moon, but also the treatment of the sky and the ripples in the water. However, some of the lines are so similar that there is a case to be made that at least parts of it were printed from the same blocks.

Copies of either of these prints are very rare. I suspect that they are both pre-quake prints.


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