WTF Woodblock Pricing
I saw this item for auction and had to blog about it. It's a posting for a Hiroshige II print on ebay. Read along and see if you can spot the issues. The posting description reads
Up for auction is a one of a kind Genuine UTAGAWA HIROSHIGE II (JAPAN, 1826 1869) Japanese WOODBLOCK PRINT.
Condition is as pictured, has been professionally stabilized with rice paper from behind 10+ years ago. I do not know the series in which it was in but I do know that they are original artwork prints dating in the 1800's . From an estate of an Art Collector, label with them certifies originality from an art dealer and/or auction. In recent year Utagawa Hiroshige the 2nd and his father's artworks are in high demand amongst art collectors. I have decided to sell these two magnificent pieces of art from my collection. Estimates for Hiroshige the 2nd prints are usually around USD 1,200 - 2,000 with a price realized at auction of around USD 3,000. Happy Bidding !
I don't consider myself an "expert" in this field but even I can see some problems with this print. First of all there is no print name or series mentioned. The sellers description reads "stabilized with rice paper" that's a warning right there, is it glued/backed with rice paper? That's not a selling point. Next the seller refers to Hiroshige as Hiroshige II's "father" which is not accurate since Hiroshige II was Hiroshige's son-in-law. Next the hyperbole of "magnificent pieces of art...",
I do appreciate Hiroshige II's work but this is not one of his important prints. I also don't know where the valuation of $3,200 - $4,500 came from - for this print, really? But this is not even my major concern, on review the photo below you can see the issues with extensive wormholes.
Looking at the other photos you can see a closeup of the front with the truly impressive wormholes, and the backing of rice paper. We can't even see if the print has been trimmed.
I did a little searching on the web, and on http://www.hiroshigeii.net/series/HTokaido.html I found this print (below) and identified it as Minakuchi #51 of Hiroshige II's Tokkaido in 1863. It looks like the sellers print could be from the original publisher based on the little bit of the publishers seal that we see poking out of the matte on the right side of the print.
Unfortunately I couldn't find any sales data on this print, but even in excellent condition I don't think it would fetch more than $400. So my point is, buyer beware of shady (not shabby) print sellers. It is hard for me to believe that someone trying to sell a print for $1,250 would be so ignorant of its history or condition. I'd put their $1,250 print at a maximum value of $60.
Finally, I do enjoy going down these rabbit holes because I found a Minakuchi print by Hiroshige that I had never seen before. "Minakuchi: The Beautiful Pine Trees at Mount Hiramatsu (Minakuchi, Hiramatsuyama bisho)—No. 51, from the series "Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido (Tokaido gojusan tsugi)," also known as the Reisho Tokaido"
It's beautiful and we can see the same things that inspired Hiroshige, also inspired Hiroshige II. How different their styles were.