A Rare Japanese Woodblock Print by Ikkosai Yoshimori. 1860. Edo Period
14 1/2 x 9 3/4 ins. (36.8 x 24.8 cms) These designs showing foreigners observed in Yokohama-e are a fascinating sub-genre of Ukiyoe art. Contrary to the accepted view in the West at the time, the designs are deliberately naive and usually of satirical intent. The Westerners in Japan at the time were often arrogant and condescending to the Japanese and probably unaware that they were being laughed at behind their backs! This condescension was still in full force at the beginning of the Second World War when it was the stated view of certain Westerners in authority that because photographs often showed the Japan wearing thick lensed spectacles their poor eyesight would make them less of a threat in warfare. Another odd canard was that the Japanese had no sense of balance which would make them very poor aviators! Of course, subsequent events revealed a serious misjudgment.
The present design is the right hand sheet of a triptych. We have been unable to find another example of the print. The subjects portrayed, as so often in Yokohama-e, must be regarded as fanciful. In the collection of the Metropolitan Museum in New York is a diptych by the same artist, Yoshimori, with the same title as the present print which the Museum has translated as "A Glance at Miyosaki, Yokohama". It seems that Miyosaki was the pleasure area of Yokohama. The four cartouche identify the character in the very elaborate wagon as a Russian, the man on the horse as American and the figure in the foreground as English. The ship is identified as a French vessel which is interesting as in 1860 only two French vessels arrived in Yokohama for the first time, marking the modest beginnings of French trade with Japan. The date seal is for 1860 and the publisher Hori Takichi.
Yoshimori was one of Kuniyoshi's many pupils who designed a number of Yokohama-e, including a series in which part of the design, e.g. a woman and a ship, are taken from Western engravings. As with many designers of Yokohama-e he also worked in a much more conventional Ukiyoe style.
The print has a vertical fold line which has been reinforced on the reverse, as have the top and bottom edges. There is some cosmetic touching-in to the repair, wear and some soiling to the surface
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