Yoshikazu: The City of Washington in America

Utagawa Yoshikazu

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Artist: Utagawa Yoshikazu
Title: Sketch of a Copperplate Print of the City of Washington, America
Date: 1861, 10th month

Sketch of a Copperplate Print of the City of Washington, America (America shu no uchi washintonfu no ke doban no utsushi). A wholly imagined Washington, DC, with the added charm of being an aizuri-e, done in shades of blue and grey to somehow mimic a copperplate engraving. The mashup of details copied from diverse western illustrations and some observed details of the mode of dress and facial features is in keeping with the way Japanese artists created images of Yokohama and its newly arrived foreign populace. On the left we see an American man with his distinctive beard and rather accurate pants and top, as well as an accurate cigarette habit. His footwear seems to be a mix of boot and Japanese-style hemp sandal. He leans on a  donkey that carries what look like Greek-style amphora. His headwear, wrapped like a turban, also does not seem to align with American attire. The two women in the middle seem to be copied from western illustrations. The strong chiaroscuro on the second woman’s garment and the way she carries an amphora on her shoulder suggest perhaps an Italian model. To their right stand two men who are dressed according to the fashion of the time, as do the two women in the rightmost sheet, one of whom wears a bonnet and carries flowers. Behind them are buildings that seem to be based on numerous sources and perhaps some fantasy. As Ann Yonemura wrote “Japanese artists, confused about the localities of architecture portrayed in Western illustrations, often produced incongruous representations of foreign lands.” The many turrets with lightning rods are a charming touch. The sky is a complete imitation of a copperplate engraving. This example is a beautifully printed, early impression, which is rare for extant Yokohama-e. Very scarce.

Condition: Excellent impression, color and condition.
Dimensions: ôban triptych (37.1 x 75 cm)
Signature: Ichijusai Yoshikazu ga


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