"Full moon at Nagakubo" is one of the most evocative of the series of prints entitled "The sixty-nine stations of the Kisokaido." The set of seventy prints contains designs by Keisai Eisen (1790-1848) and Hiroshige. The publisher Takenouchi Magohachi, who also released Hiroshige's great set "The fifty-three stations of the Tokaido," first commissioned the designs from Eisen in 1835. Wishing to capitalize on the success of "The fifty-three stations of the Tokaido," he commissioned Eisen to design a complementary set of scenes along the Kiso Road, the alternate inland route across the main island of Japan, from the capital Edo (Tokyo) to Kyoto. After making the drawings for about a third of the finished set, Eisen--quixotic and eccentric--abruptly dropped out. Subsequently Takenouchi enlisted the publisher Iseya Rihei who paid Hiroshige to finish the set in the late 1830s. Eventually Iseya took over the copyright of the series and produced his own set, removing Takenouchi's seal from the blocks, replacing Takenouchi's emblems which appear in various designs with his own, and removing Eisen's signature altogether.
"Nagakubo" is one of three moonlight scenes contributed to the set by Hiroshige. This is the first state, showing the ridges of Mount Asama in silhouette behind the bridge. The trees in the foreground are printed doubly, black on black, to simulate the rustling of the branches in a gentle breeze. The subtle coloration of the river surface renders the effect of bright moonlight on the rising mist. The astonishing skill of the printer brings Hiroshige's vision to life.
For other impressions see Suzuki Juzo, Hiroshige (Tokyo: Nikkei Shinbunsha, 1970), pl. 25; Kikuchi Sadao, Kisokaido rokujukyu tsugi no uchi, vol. 15 of Ukiyo-e taikei (Tokyo: Shueisha, 1975), pl. 28 (Tokyo National Museum); Sebastian Izzard, Hiroshige: An exhibition of selected prints and illustrated books, exh. cat. (New York: The Ukiyo-e Society of America, 1983), pl. 37; Matthi Forrer, Hiroshige: Prints and Drawings, exh. cat. (London: Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1997), pl. 37 (Honolulu Academy of Arts).