A rare complete set of 46 woodblock prints signed by the Japanese ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai sold Tuesday in a live auction for $3.56 million at Christie's in New York.

Produced in the early 1830s, the original "Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji" set depicting the mountain from various locales including Edo, present-day Tokyo, gained popularity at the time, leading to the creation of 10 more works for the series.

The prints were collected individually over a decade by Jitendra Singh, a professor emeritus of the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, according to Edward Lewine, Christie's vice president of communications.

Part of the "Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji" woodblock prints auctioned at Christie's in New York. (Photo courtesy of Christie's)(Kyodo)

Singh bought his first Hokusai print in 2013 and his last in January 2023, completing the entire group of 46 at a price tag of about $3 million, Lewine said.

A full set of prints from the series was last sold in 2002 at a Sotheby's Paris auction for 1.4 million euros ($1.5 million), according to Takaaki Murakami, head of Christie's Japanese and Korean art department.

"The market is much better now compared to 20 years ago," Murakami said in a recent interview. "I think Hokusai's works appeal to the international market."

Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), a master ukiyo-e woodblock print maker in Japan's Edo Era, is known for "The Great Wave off Kanagawa," an iconic image from the series. A single print of the work sold at Christie's for $2.76 million a year ago, a record auction price for a piece by the artist, Christie's said.

The famous series, printed with Prussian blue ink that was newly accessible at the time through Western merchants, shows Japan's tallest mountain from different vantage points and in different seasons, according to Christie's website.

The "Honjo Tatekawa" print depicting lumber workers in Hokusai's birth town in modern-day Sumida Ward, Tokyo, is thought to be the first design of the additional 10 works. According to Murakami, it is "the number one most rare" in the series.

As Hokusai's woodblock prints were not made with edition numbers, it is unknown exactly how many were produced. There are theories that put the total number somewhere between 2,000 and 5,000, Murakami said.

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