City View



Left: Brown and Silver: Old Battersea Bridge. James McNeill Whistler; 1859–1863; Oil on canvas mounted on Masonite; Addison Gallery of American Art, Gift of Cornelius N. Bliss. Right: River Thames at Chelsea, London. © David Davies – Pianowerk.
Thames River traffic is shown in Whistler’s Brown and Silver: Old Battersea Bridge and this recent photograph of the present-day bridge. Barges still pass under the 1890 bridge, which replaced the original wooden structure painted by Whistler in the 1860s.


Left: Ryōgokubashi Viewed from Senbongui. Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847–1915); Japan, ca. 1880; Woodblock print; ink and color on paper; Robert O. Muller Collection S2003.8.1171. Right: Senbongui. Photo by Shuko Koyama, Tokyo.

To the north of Ryōgoku Bridge on the east bank of the Sumida River is a spot called Senbongui. Meaning literally “a thousand poles or stakes,” Senbongui was marked with posts, which were driven into this section of the embankment to halt erosion. There are strong currents at this point in the river, in part because it is where salt tidewaters mix with freshwater from the north. These waters were known for excellent catches of fish.

Kiyochika followed the master Hiroshige in selecting this site as an important one in the lexicon of notable places in Edo/Tokyo. Today, concrete walls control the river and an express highway runs above it. The only markers for this site are a plaque, a few mural paintings, and a symbolic clustering of stakes.