A Brief History of Prints of Actors Part 2: 1742-1769

From the Kanpō period (寛保, 1741-1743), and more exactly from the year 1742, prints with two to three colours printed from blocks begin to appear, the so-called benizurie (紅摺絵), mostly in a colour scheme identical to benie and primarily in the hosoban format. However, it is only from 1744 that these would account for most of the print production, and it is only from about 1750 that they completely supersede urushie, although we can even find a few exceptions as late as 1760. Their designers are Ishikawa Toyonobu (石川豊信 act 1743-59), Torii Kiyomitsu (鳥居清満 act 1745-77), Torii Kiyohiro (鳥居清廣 act 1752-68), and Torii Kiyotsune (鳥居清経 act 1757-78), some of them even adopting the novel technique of full colour printing, nishikie (錦絵), from 1764.

Torii Kiyomitsu: The actor Ichikawa Raizō as Minamoto no Yoshitsune, XI/1761 Courtesy The Art Institute of Chicago

Looking then at prints issued in the period from 1742 to 1769, the heyday of benizurie prints, we notice quite a shift. This period comes to an end when the newly developed full colour prints, nishikie, become the overall standard. Although we can notice a few designers of the Torii-tradition who still as late as 1778 try to serve their traditional clientele with benizurie prints, in the end they too have to submit to innovation.

PeriodWhatIIIIIIIVVVIVIIVIIIIXXXIPrints
1697 1760tane urushie42% 9%   5%   29%99.5%
1742 1769benizurie27%9%9% 5% 6%   35%100%

What we see in the benizurie days is that most prints of actors in role are associated with performances in the eleventh month, 35%, those associated with the New Year’s performances being second with only 27%, indeed a total reversal from the preceding period, as if the notion of the ‘kabuki year’ is now being accepted much more widely. In the third place are prints associated with performances in the second and third months, both accounting for 9%. The fourth place is for prints after performances in the seventh month, 6%, followed by those in the fifth month, 5%.

Ishikawa Toyonobu: The actors Nakamura Kiyosaburō as Matsuyama and Ichimura Kamezō as Wanya Kyūbei, XI/1749 Courtesy The Art Institute of Chicago

Yet, even with only five remaining months, and not seven as before, accounting for one to three percent of the prints of actors only, we still must really wonder how designers of prints in much of the eighteenth century could possibly make a living. For most of the print buying audience, if we can even speak of that in this period, it seems to have sufficed to just buy something like one print every year, either after the kaomise performances of the eleventh month, or after the New Year’s performances. And in case they might have forgotten the name of the actor and the role he played, these are invariably printed alongside the figures. Only very few slightly more passionate kabuki lovers, less than 30% in the earlier period it seems, and still less than 40% in this second period, seem to have been buying one or two more prints of actors in role.

We should also take into consideration that it was, until the 1760s, almost impossible to gain some extra income from making book illustrations or even design picture books, ehon (絵本, of course, Moronobu 菱川師宣 and Jihei 杉村治兵衛 are exceptions in Edo). Okumura Toshinobu is known for just one book, as are Torii Kiyonobu II and Torii Kiyohiro. Nishimura Shigenaga 西村重長 is known for three books, Torii Kiyomasu II for twelve (in a period of 48 years of activity), and Torii Kiyoshige 鳥居清重 for sixteen (in 35 years of activity). If we also include books of erotic content, which the Japanese literature tries to ignore altogether, Torii Kiyonobu I is known for 6 books, five of which are of erotic content, Okumura Masanobu for 36 books, 23 of which are of erotic content, and Ishikawa Toyonobu for 13 books, all of erotic content. However, it is only from the 1760s that Torii Kiyomitsu and Torii Kiyotsune can finally make a living by illustrating 71 and 200 popular novels respectively, in addition to the prints they designed, a totally new development of the time.

Torii Kiyomitsu: The actors Ichimura Uzaemon IX as Nagoya Sanza and Ichimura Kamezō II, XI/1766 Courtesy The Art Institute of Chicago

Indeed, it is only from the 1760s that we find ourselves in a society where what we generally believed to be the ‘Floating World’ can finally, and only then, begin to develop. Until then, popular novels don’t get “popular” thanks to their illustrations or illustrators. And it would seem that, until then, only very few designers of prints could have made a living, or survive by just designing prints. Of course, we have no idea of the survival rate of prints in the eighteenth century, but even when we consider a survival rate of one third or one fourth, how, for example, could Torii Kiyotsune possibly have made a living for 21 years on a total of 3 x 18 = 54, or maybe 4 x 18 = 72 print designs, if only thanks to his illustrations to 200 popular novels? Or if we just take the 149 prints of actors listed by Mutō as a base, should we consider him as someone trying to make a living on the basis of 3 x 149 = 447 or 4 x 149 = 596 – which still comes down to not more than an annual production of 21 or 28 designs, sort of one every other week? Should we consequently consider most of these designers as gifted amateurs with some other regular income to make a living and support their family and occasionally maybe even running a part-time atelier with pupils? Anyway, they are eshi 絵師 or maybe gakō 画工, draughtsmen, certainly belonging to the social class of craftsmen.

Naturally, the various heads of the Torii tradition enjoyed a regular income from painting the posters of the Edo kabuki theatres, which brought them from Osaka to Edo to begin with, and this would go for Torii Kiyonobu (1664-1729), Torii Kiyonobu II (1706-1763), for Torii Kiyomitsu (1735-1785), and maybe also for Torii Kiyonaga (鳥居清長 1752-1815). Moreover, as the heads of the Torii tradition, they must have been able to make a living and train the next generation of Torii designers. The one other exception would be Okumura Masanobu who, as the ’inventor of perspective prints, ukie’ (浮繪根元), and much more, also acted as a real innovative publisher.

Of course, as we know, certainly also from Higuchi’s work, these artists justly considered themselves as craftsmen and also designed prints of fashionable women, as well as other fashionable images. Foremost in this respect are Nishimura Shigenaga (act 1719-1754), with only 6 prints of actors in role out of a total of 52 prints listed in Higuchi, that is 11%, and the real versatile talent Okumura Masanobu, with only 32 prints of actors out of the 111 works listed with Higuchi, or 28%. In the case of both Ishikawa Toyonobu with 22 prints of actors out of 58 prints listed in Higuchi (Mutō lists 90 prints of actors), and Torii Kiyohiro with 16 prints of actors out of 37 (Mutō lists 145), we are still in the less than 50% range with 38 and 43% respectively. However, for most other artists, prints of actors in role seem to have been their primary production, and consequently we must indeed wonder how they possibly made a living. For Nishimura Shigenobu (西村重信 act 1722-1747) with 16 prints of actors out of a total of 27 listed in Higuchi (Mutō lists 46), this makes up for 60% of his oeuvre. Both Torii Kiyomasu I, Okumura Toshinobu, and Torii Kiyomitsu make prints of actors to 65% of their output, Kiyomasu with 39 prints out of 60, Toshinobu with 34 out of 52, and Kiyomitsu with 47 out of the 72 designs listed in Higuchi. Torii Kiyotsune, gets to 77% with 14 prints of actors out of 18, and both Torii Kiyonobu I and Torii Kiyomasu II not really surprisingly reach 79%, Kiyonobu with 62 prints of actors out of 78 designs, and Kiyomasu with at least 60 of the 76 designs by him listed in Higuchi. With Torii Kiyoshige (act 1721-1763) and Torii Kiyonobu II we get to the 95% range, with Kiyoshige being listed in Higuchi with 19 designs of actors out of a total of 20 designs, and Kiyonobu with 54 out of 57.

Next time A Brief History of Prints of Actors, Part 3A: 1764-1796, or maybe just an Intermezzo: Don’t Look Back

Japanese Prints of Actors – A Brief History Part 1: 1697-1760

It is really fascinating to have a closer look at what came to be called ‘actor prints’ from late Meiji, when the Japanese also started to demonstrate some real interest in Japanese woodblock prints and then coined the term yakushae (役者絵). At the time when these were made, they were simply called ‘pictures of figures,’ sugatae (姿繪), or also ‘pictures of the appearances of actors,’ yakusha no sugatae (役者の姿繪) in order to distinguish them from what we now know as ‘prints of beauties,’ bijinga (美人画), again a term only coined in the Meiji period for prints that had simply been known as ‘pictures of figures,’ sugatae, at the time, as in Seirō bijin awase sugata kagami, Mirror of Pictures of the Fair Ladies of the Green Houses (青楼美人合姿鑑), the 1776 book by Shunshō and Shigemasa.

Indeed, thanks to some quite comprehensive and reliable overviews of prints of actors, we can now discern some interesting shifts of interest that especially give us a better insight in the practices of print production. Until recently, we could probably just avail ourselves of Higuchi Hiroshi’s Shoki ukiyoe kaisetsu (樋口弘『初期浮世絵解説』) of 1977, or even, earlier still, of Helen Gunsaulus’ The Clarence Buckingham collection of Japanese prints: The Primitives, Chicago 1955. But now there is also Mutō Junko’s Shoki ukiyoe to kabuki (武藤純子『初期浮世絵と歌舞伎』) of 2005 as probably the best source available at the moment.

Torii Kiyonobu II, The actor Ichikawa Danjūrō II in the role of Soga no Jūrō in a performance in I/1733 Courtesy The Art Institute of Chicago 1939.2148

Making a chronological inventory of all prints that Mutō lists, and then even splitting them up according to the months when they were issued, we find that most such prints portraying actors in role in the period from 1697 to the mid 1740s can be assigned to the New Year’s performances in the first month. They make up for 42% of the total production, suggesting that it was then some kind of general practice to start the new year buying one’s first (and only?) actor print. Next come those that can be identified with the kaomise (顔見) performances of the eleventh month, the opening of the new kabuki season, 29%, a similar sort of moment for those rather adhering to the official beginning of the kabuki-year. Then follow prints that are associated with performances in the third month, 9%, and with those of the seventh month, 5%. The remaining seven months – there are no performances in the twelfth month – all account for less than 5%, and for the sake of clarity, I ignore them here.

MonthsWhatIIIIIIIVVVIVIIVIIIIXXXIPrints
1697 1760tane urushie42%  9%       5%     29%99.5%
Torii Kiyomasu, The actor Fujimura Handayū in the role of Ōiso no Tora, I/1715 Courtesy The Art Institute of Chicago 1925.1732

The period that I selected here is not a haphazard one, it covers the early period of prints in line only, sumizurie (墨摺絵), mostly until 1715 (?), and, from 1698-1725, the so-called tane (丹絵) with their characteristic hand colouring in a brilliant cinnabar orange-vermillion with green and yellow, as well as, from 1714-49, the rather predominant urushie (漆絵), prints with a hand-applied black mixed with glue to resemble lacquer, urushi (漆), sometimes even finished with powdered brass in some areas, and, from 1716-49 the less common benie (紅絵), prints hand-coloured with a strong pinkish red pigment and green or yellow. This is also the period of prints in various different formats – a real standardization only dates from 1772 – ranging from very large sheets (ōōban 大大判, falling in the range from 594 to 543 x 332 to 312), or large sheets (ōban 大判, of 453-380 x 300-270), or medium sheets (chūban 中判, of 300 x 215), and, from 1717, the smaller hosoban 細判 of 350-285 x 216-158 that will then soon really become predominant.

These prints were designed by artists such as Torii Kiyonobu (鳥居清信 act 1696-1724), Torii Kiyomasu (鳥居清倍 act 1697-1720), as well as, during part of their careers, by Okumura Masanobu (奥村正信 act 1705-56), Okumura Toshinobu (奥村俊信 act 1717-49), Okumura Toshinobu (奥村利信 act 1717-49), Torii Kiyomasu II (二代鳥居清倍 act 1718-66), and Torii Kiyonobu II (二代鳥居清信 act 1725-61).

Next: Part 2: 1742-1769

Where Would One Buy a Netsuke in Edo: Check the Yellow Pages

Now that we have seen the shopping guides for Osaka and Kyoto, such a guide for Edo, Shopping Yourself in Edo, Edo kaimono hitori annai (江戸買物獨案内, 3 vols) of 1824, was actually, quite surprisingly, published by the Osaka firm of Nakagawa Gorōemon (中川五郎兵衛門) with Yamashiroya Sahei (山城屋佐兵衛), Okadaya Kashichi (岡田屋嘉七), Kuwamura Hanzō (桑村半藏) and Takegawa Fujibei (竹川藤兵衛) of Edo, and Kawanami Shirōbei (河南四郎兵衛) and Suzuya Yasubei (鈴屋安兵衛) of Kyoto, and Yanagiwara Kihei (柳原喜兵衛), Morimoto Tasuke (森本太助) and Nakagawa Gorōbei (中川五郎兵衛) of Osaka. It would seem that the Osaka publisher also acted as the compiler of the guide under the name of Nakagawa Hōsandō (中川芳山堂). And would he be the same as Nakagawa Gohei (中川五兵衛) whom we saw as the publisher of the Osaka shopping guide? All in all, the Edo guide lists 2622 shops, 151 of these are restaurants, all listed in the third volume. Anyway Nakagawa undoubtedly also targeted the Edo market, asking Ōta Nanpo (大田南畝, 1749-1823) to write a foreword, dated 1822, and asking Hokusai to contribute some illustrations (that apparently until now went unnoticed by all Hokusai researchers, so I’ll come back to these sometime soon).

A samurai spotting a toad on his shoulder, signed Takamasa 貴正 (Courtesy National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden)

Here we find, under the letter ‘ne,’ two shops explicitly selling netsuke: Yamagataya Sukejirō (山形屋助次郎) at Tōri Shiochō (通塩町), also advertizing a stock of leather pouches (?, 革提) and all kinds of ojime, and Fujishima Matsugorō (藤島松五郎) at Suwachō in Asakusa (浅草諏訪町), who is otherwise a woodcarving atelier making netsuke and ojime as well as pipecases, kiseruzutsu (煙管筒). According to this guide, Hiroseya Kashichi (廣瀬屋嘉七) of the Guild of Paper Tobacco Pouches (紙煙草入問屋) – which we don’t have in Kyoto or Osaka — at Bakurochō sanchōme (馬喰町三丁目), is also selling netsuke and ojime (緒留), and pouches, of course, even all kinds of leather pouches (?), as well as paper handkerchiefs (did we have paper handkerchiefs by then? remember, we are in 1824), and kanamono (金物, probably small knives, kozuka, razors, scissors, and the like). Misuya Zenbei (三栖屋善兵衛) of Ōtenmachōdōri Hatagochō (大傳馬町通旅篭町) sells all kinds of netsuke and ojime, as well as tobacco pouches made of both Kyoto and Ise fabrics. But unlike the shopping guides of Osaka and Kyoto, none of the forty haberdashers in this shopping guide — and there must have been many many more in this largest city of the world — claims to also sell netsuke, they do mention selling combs, ornamental hairpins of both the kōgai and kanzashi types, and some even ivory, but none of them specifically mentions netsuke. And this also goes for the forty dealers of tortoise, bekkō (鼈甲), most of these also working in ivory, but none of them mentions that they also make netsuke.

A Shishi lion with its paws on a jewel (Courtesy National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden)

Anyway, we may well conclude that there were, indeed, a few shops with an atelier where people were carving netsuke in various materials. Maybe most artisans engaged in netsuke carving would occasionally also sell their works through these shops, but mostly, it seems, they would try and make arrangements with the ubiquitous haberdashers, komamonoya, and this was how they found buyers for their works and where people wanting to buy a netsuke, or just another netsuke so they might fit these with another inrō or tobacco pouch would go. And for some Kokusai 谷齋 netsuke you would probably go and try one of the Asakusa haberdashers.

Where Would One Buy a Netsuke in Kyoto: Check the Yellow Pages

Moving from Osaka to Kyoto, another such guide is Shopping by Yourself in Kyoto, Kyōto kaimono hitori annai (京都買物獨案内) of 1831, published by Shimizuya Jihei (清水屋次兵衛) of Kyoto with his colleagues Choya Kanbei (著屋勘兵衛) and Izōya Saemon (伊像屋佐右衛門), also of Kyoto, and with Kawachiya Kihei (河内屋喜兵衛) and Harimaya Gorōbei (播磨屋五郎兵衛) of Osaka and Yamashiroya Sahei (山城屋佐兵衛) of Edo. Under the letter ‘so’ we find ‘ivory,’ zōge (象牙), starting with a large advert of Iseya Zenbei (伊勢屋善兵衛) at Teramachi Takatsuji (寺町高辻上ル), a Wholesaler of Ivory and All Kinds of Materials, Zōgerui toiya (象牙類問屋), who has netsuke, offering plectra (for playing the shamisen or the biwa-lute), various white silken kesa (priest’s stoles?), the jiku for mounters of paintings (the knobs on the roller), plectra for the koto, spinning tops, netsuke, indeed, chopsticks, tea spoons, incense boxes, combs and ornamental hairpins of both the kōgai (笄) and the kanzashi (簪) types [for ills see my earlier blog on netsuke in Osaka], all made of water buffalo, whale, elephant, bone, or horn, as well as of porcelain, stone, combs that one disposes of (?), cloisonné enamel, shells, of Chinese (or just outlandish) and Japanese woods, lathe work, peony, small runners for sugoroku boards, and stone, and various articles. Then there is Yorozuya Shōsuke (萬屋庄助) at the Yanagi horse riding ground by the Manju Temple (萬壽寺柳馬場), a member of the Guild of Ivory and Tortoise Importers (象牙鼈甲仕入問屋), also running a workshop, and offering various netsuke made of Chinese (or just foreign) woods and all kinds of ivory jiku for mounters of paintings (see above). And just specializing in netsuke carvings there is Hōgaku (宝樂), a master netsuke carver, netsuke horimonoshi (根付彫物師) at Ogawadōri Ebisugawa (小川通夷川上ル).

The Japanese wife of a Dutchman on Deshima holding a shawn and having a child on her back, signed Yoshitomo 吉友 (Courtesy National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden)

Among the haberdashers, komamonoya (小間物屋), we find Fujiya Sōbei (藤屋惣兵衛) at Rokkakujichō (六角寺町西へ入) as a shoshiki komamonoya (諸色小間物屋), that is a ‘haberdasher of commodities,’ apparently a sub-group among haberdashers, selling netsuke and various sagemono (提物, that is various items worn from the sash, which may be as varied as tobacco pouches, pipe holders, inrō, purses, gourds to contain liquids or also medicine, and scoops for drinking water), and items in tortoise and ivory, and combs and ornamental hairpins of the kōgai type (笄). Sawaya Kyūbei (佐和屋久兵衛) at Matsubara Tomikomichi (松原冨小路東へ入) offers netsuke and all kinds of hardware (kanamono 金物, probably small knives, kozuka, razors, scissors, and the like), ornamental hairpins of the kanzashi type, bags and pouches (fukuromono 袋物), and xx? (華提). And Komatsuya Mohei (小松屋茂兵衛) at Teramachi Matsubara (寺町松原下町) offers netsuke in addition to compasses (磁石) and various kinds of older hardware (?, 前金物類). And then there are another 199 haberdashers who just fail to specify whether they are also dealing in netsuke, among whom there is at least some Karakiya Shichibei (唐木屋七兵衛, suggesting something with foreign kinds of wood), and some Zōgeya Hanbei (象牙屋半兵衛, suggesting something with ivory). But hardly any of these shops selling netsuke is specific about whether they have ivory or wooden netsuke, and maybe they just have a good selection of both, the ivory ones undoubtedly being more costly than most common woods, certainly when these are not ‘foreign woods, karaki.’ And so far, just one shop-owner claims to sell netsuke made by a known carver. Isn’t that an issue at the time, or would you simply know that you should be here for your Tomotada ox and with that shop for an Okatomo goat? The connoisseurs, I mean.

A fisherman on the back of a huge blow fish, fugu, signed Masatomo 正友(Courtesy National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden)

A later edition of this Kyoto shopping guide is published in 1851 by the same Shimizuya Jihei (清水屋次兵衛) of Kyoto with his colleagues Shimizuya Kanbei (清水屋勘兵衛), Yoshinoya Kanbei (吉野屋勘兵衛) and Hiranoya Mohei (平野屋茂兵衛) also of Kyoto, and with Kawachiya Kihei (河内屋喜兵衛) and Harimaya Gorōbei (播磨屋五郎兵衛) of Osaka, and again with Yamashiroya Sahei (山城屋佐兵衛) of Edo. Here we find the Netsuke shop of Kaneya Ihei (金屋伊兵衛) at Tomikomichi Shijō (冨小路四条下る) with a stock of netsuke (根付仕入所) in ivory, Chinese, that is foreign woods, and Japanese woods, finally even mentioning the name of his netsuke carver: Matsui Masamitsu (松井正光). Could he be the Masamitsu listed as 1435 by Davey: ‘One recorded. Wood. Mask of Okame. Early 19th century.’ Or would he rather be one of the two Masamitsus listed in Ueda, nos. 219 and 220. The second died in 1902 at the age of over 50, so he was born around the late 1840s, making it quite unlikely that he was working with Kaneya in 1851. The first Masamitsu was actually ‘Ejima Kōtarō (江島幸太郎), from Takada in Echigo Province, a pupil of Ishikura Masayoshi (石倉正義 [also from Takada, Echigo, who died in 1848]) who adopted him as his son. He then returned to Echigo and died in 1909 at the age of circa 73.’ Not impossible, being born in 1836, but not really convincing.

Among the haberdashers, there is Naraya Yasubei (奈良屋安兵衛) at Teramachi Shijō (寺町四条下) selling all kinds of netsuke and ojime (緒メ), purses (紙入), tobacco pouches (煙艸入) and hardware (金物). And the Kyūmondō of Shimizuya Jihei (九文堂清水屋次兵衛) at Tomikomichi Shijō (冨小路四条下ル町) sells netsuke, and also dolls, the stones for the board game of shōgi (将棊駒), small picture books (小繪本), x?, and all kinds of kanamono (金物).

Obviously, there are plenty of shops where you might try and find a netsuke that you liked, and you wouldn’t have to ask where such or so school netsuke carver was having his studio. You might just as well try any haberdasher in the city. As far as I am aware, nobody in the vast literature on netsuke ever discussed how and where these could be bought, and for me, as an art historian, how the art market works is a primary interest. Next week we’ll be looking at the Edo market of netsuke.

Where Would One Buy a Netsuke in Osaka: Check the Yellow Pages

The various lists of netsuke carvers in, for example, Ueda Reikichi’s Netsuke no kenkyū of 1954 (上田令吉『根附之研究』大阪:前田大文館, the copy I have, listing 1307 names), or also Neil Davey’s Netsuke of 1974 (listing 3425 names), might well suggest that large numbers of individuals – admittedly over a longer period of time – made a living carving netsuke, now even being referred to as ‘artists.’ But when one in those days would like to buy a Tomotada (友忠) ox or a goat by Okatomo (岡友), how would you know how to get one, or even know where the man lived – this is the Edo Period, long before the internet and smartphones. Another problem is in the epithet ‘so and so school,’ as if there were such a ‘school’ where aspiring carvers would enrol to become a ‘so or so school netsuke carver.’ And how could you find these schools if you wanted to buy some ‘so or so school’ netsuke? And what would you do when you live in Osaka, where there is apparently no ‘Osaka school’ of netsuke carvers?

A reclining ox, signed Tomotada 友忠 (Courtesy National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden)

Don’t despair, no problem, also in Osaka there are numerous shops specializing in various products from Edo, or having large selections of Setomono, a term covering all kinds of porcelains and pottery from all over the country, which you would also find in Kyoto and Edo. Then there are shops with a large array of local products, such as cotton from Kawachi Province and Shikoku Island, dolls from Fushimi, medicines from China and Holland, or from Hizen, suggesting Dutch medicines imported through Nagasaki, and both Chinese and Dutch pairs of glasses, various qualities of paper from the provinces of Echizen, Mino, and Tango, as well as paper, ink, brushes and incense from China, soy sauce from Bizen, various products from Matsumae, the northernmost tip of Honshū, as well as ginned cotton (繰綿), ink, brushes and ink stones old and new, miso paste, saddlery (馬具), teas, and much more from all over Japan. Even woodblock prints from Edo (江戸錦繪) and popular novels were being offered by Sumiya Kanshichi (炭屋勘七) at Matsubaradōri (松原通) in Kyoto, who otherwise held a large stock of Chinese mirrors and strings for the koto and the shamisen. And umbrellas sold in Edo were mostly imported from Kyoto (下リ). Indeed, there was no internet in the Edo Period, but they were certainly the so-called pre-modern era, well-equipped with good and up-to-date shopping guides as the equivalent of our already extinct yellow pages. Anyway, no fear of being deprived of anything you could imagine.

From such shopping guides, we can get a better idea about the market procedures, even for netsuke. Although some netsuke carvers may have run an atelier with a number of students catering to some audience in the various cities, such would have been quite exceptional, I would say. It might well be that we are rather mostly dealing with netsuke carvers working with one or preferably several shops that would sell their works on the basis of some commission. That there are indeed such shops will be obvious from, for example, the Guide for Shopping Yourself in Osaka, Shonin kaimono hitori annai (商人買物獨案内) published in 2 parts in 1824-1831 by Yanagihara Kihei (柳原木兵衛), Morimoto Tasuke (森本太助) and Nakagawa Gohei (中川五兵衛) of Osaka, together with Enya Yasubei (鉛屋安兵衛) of Kyoto and Suharaya Mohei (須原屋茂兵衛) of Edo. Under the letter ‘ne’ it lists just one netsuke maker: the Celebrity Netsuke Carving Studio of Zōgeya Chōbei, Meika netsuke saikudokoro (名家根付細工所象牙屋長兵衛), located at the Toriyachō by Bingochō (鳥屋町備後町南へ入). But we have a much better chance among the many haberdashers (essentially komamonoya 小間物屋). The shop of Kikuya Ihei (キク屋伊兵衛) at Sakaisuji minami Honchō (堺節南本町) advertises that it has netsuke, as well as all sorts of combs and ornamental hairpins both of the kōgai (笄) and of the kanzashi (簪) types (see the ill. below). The ‘ivory,’ zōge in the names of two other commodities haberdashers of the Komamono shoshiki toiya (小間物諸色問屋) guild, going by the names of Zōgeya Jirōbei (象牙屋治郎兵衛) at Sakaisuji Hakurōchō (堺節搏労町) and Zōgeya Yasubei (象牙屋安兵衛) at Sakaisuji minami Kyūtarōchō (堺節南久太郎町南へ入) would make it quite likely that they would also sell netsuke, I would say. Another haberdasher named Zōgeya Heizō (象牙屋平蔵) at Sakaisuji Junkeimachi (堺節順慶町北へ入) mentions that he is selling all sorts of combs and ornamental hairpins of both the kōgai (笄) and the kanzashi (簪) types, as well as netsuke, where it is probably understood that these are ivory for whom can afford these. And Tatsumiya Kaemon (辰巳屋加右衛門) at Shinsaibashi minami itchōme (心斎橋南一丁目) specifies that, in addition to netsuke, he also sells tobacco pouches, hardware (kanamono金物, probably small knives, kozuka, razors, scissors, and the like), and sagemono (提物, that is various items worn from the sash, which may be as varied as tobacco pouches, pipe holders, inrō, purses, gourds to contain liquids or also medicine, and scoops for drinking water). Ōtsuya Kyūbei (大津屋久兵衛) of Nagabori Shinsaibashi kitakō (長掘心斎橋北浩) also has netsuke and tobacco pouches, but states that he is specialized in ornamental hairpins of the kanzashi type and pipes. Then there is the shop of Echigoya Tōsuke (越後屋藤助), a haberdasher at Kōraibashi itchōme (高麗橋一丁目), actually specialized in bags and pouches, fukuromono (袋物), but also selling tortoise ornamental hairpins, kōgai, as well as water buffalo and ivory hairpins, again kōgai, so why not also netsuke?

A Kaki fruit and a snail on its branch Courtesy National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden

And then there are still some thirty other haberdashers in this shopping guide that have tobacco pouches, various sagemono and various types of hairpins, but they just don’t explicitly advertise that they are also selling netsuke. Maybe it was well-known that you could just try any of the countless haberdashers if you wished to buy a netsuke and see whether they had any nice, new, or attractive model. Or just one really en vogue, if you would be looking for one that was like the talk of the town. After all, a figurative netsuke maybe best compares to a man’s necktie – even simple stripes may tell something about the wearer. As for the five Ateliers Working in Ivory, Zōge saikudokoro (象牙細工所), none of them advertizes that they also make netsuke, just combs, ornamental hairpins of both the kōgai and the kanzashi types, as well as the plectra for the shamisen and biwa lutes. One of these even claims to make various archer’s arm protectors (鞆), sword sheaths (鞘) and (other items?) in sharkskin (鮫, supposing that he refers to making sharkskin sword sheaths). But really, no netsuke if you work in ivory?

A hairpin of the so-called kōgai type, a single needle (Courtesy National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden RV-1332-1a)
Two hairpins of the kanzashi type, the top one in silver, the other imitation tortoise, 1820s (Courtesy National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden)
The advert for Ōmiya Ihei’s shop of rice cakes, mochi, printed in blue

One interesting feature of this shopping guide is that a number of shops want to catch more attention and have the information about their business printed in blue. For 1824 this is a very early case of aizurie (藍摺絵) which we can find in Edo really not much earlier than 1830 (see my earlier blog on Hokusai’s Wave off Kanagawa – Hokusai and aizurie). These were of course printed separately and pasted in the correct position in the bound books. Alas, the second part of this very interesting and useful publication didn’t yield any more shops selling netsuke. Next week: Where would one buy a netsuke in Kyoto.

Kuniyoshi’s very first ideas for his new compositions

As we know, the aspiring print designer Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861) was initially really having a hard time making a living, at times even obliged to be selling tatami mattings or carve the heads of puppets, until, from 1827 he could enjoy some success when his series of Portraits of All of the One Hundred and Eight Heroes of the Popular Suikoden, Tsūzoku Suikoden gōketsu hyakuhachinin no hitori, published by Kagaya Kichiemon, finally brought him success. At the time, he still could hardly afford some good paper or use it as he would have liked. This we can clearly see in his preparatory sketch for the portrait of Rōshi Ensei in this series (National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden, RV-3513-x; see my Drawings by Utagawa Kuniyoshi. The Hague 1988, 27), where he used the verso of the sheet for a design of a seated Chinese man. Also in the sketch for Waikyakko Ōei in the same collection (RV-3513-139; Forrer, 42), he later used some empty space for some scribblings of heads and arms, and even what seems to be a first idea for his print of Kikenji Tokyō of the Suikoden series.

Especially this very first idea that came to Kuniyoshi’s mind when he thought about his print of Kikenji Tokyō, as well as quite some other designs that are known in various versions, help us to get closer to Kuniyoshi’s artistry, almost allowing us to look over his shoulders as he was working. As an art historian, I find this fascinating. However, many years ago, when I suggested to some Japanese publisher to make a book on sketches and the corresponding final prints and bookplates, he looked really puzzled, almost shocked by the idea that I didn’t realize that it was only the final product that mattered, as he assured me.

Minamoto no Tametomo shooting an arrow at the ship with Mochimitsu and his warriors. Courtesy National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden RV-3513-95

What I consider a very fine example of Kuniyoshi at work is the preliminary sketch of the great archer Minamoto no Tametomo (1139-1170?) in full armour, shooting an arrow at Mochimitsu’s ship that is seen in the distance on the water, thus drowning almost all of the three hundred men with it (RV-3513-95; Forrer 45).* Kuniyoshi intended this design for the series of The Sixty-nine Stations of the Kisokaidō Road, Kisokaidō rokujūkyūtsugi no uchi, published by Kagaya Yasubei in the years 1852-53. There is already some correction on Tametomo’s face in pasted on pentimenti and even the cartouches for the series and print titles are indicated. But then, as Kuniyoshi showed the preliminary sketch to Kagaya Yasubei, his publisher – and we didn’t know that this was sometimes (?) or maybe always (?) done – he apparently demanded to adapt the design and make it a portrait of the famous 9th century archer Yuriwaka Daijin instead, as we can infer from the scribbling at the bottom, reading ‘Yasubei [says] this [must be] Yuriwaka,’ Yasubei kore Yuriwaka. Amazing, don’t you think. Not only that Kuniyoshi would show, or rather submit his very preliminary sketch to the publisher, but also that he obviously had a say, such as remarking ‘No, forget about Tametomo, I rather want a portrait of Yuriwaka.’

* Please excuse the bad quality of this illustration, this is even better that what I can download from the museum’s website, but as soon as I can access the museum again, I will try to get better pics

And so, Kuniyoshi started working on an adaptation of the design to make it a portrait of Yuriwaka. This we can see in a sketch also preserved in the National Museum of Ethnology (RV-3513-150; Forrer 35). Here he is portrayed without any armour, his clothing just blowing in the wind, though a little less freely than in the print, anyway just a preliminary sketch of the figure of Yuriwaka, although he wouldn’t in the end be stretching the string of his bow as both the string and the arrow would interfere with his face, rather at the moment when he had shot the arrow, as in the original Tametomo design (again as the publisher preferred it?). That is the print published by Kagaya Yasubei in V/1852.

Yuriwaka Daijin shooting an arrow. Courtesy National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden RV-3513-150
The Station of Fukaya from the series The 69 Stations of the Kisokaidō: The heroe Yuriwaka Daijin shooting an arrow

Even then, still not oblivious of his days as a poor aspiring designer of prints, Kuniyoshi didn’t spill any paper and used some empty space in the sheet of this second sketch for three designs of triptych compositions. One of these, at the bottom, between Yuriwaka’s feet, has a first idea for one of his major triptych compositions of A View of the Sea Bottom at Daimotsu Bay, Daimotsu no ura kaitei no zu, with Taira no Tomomori (1151-1185) and some other Taira heroes at the bottom of the sea, rather drowning himself after his defeat in the battle at Dannoura in 1185 than being killed by the Minamoto, attached to a huge anchor, some others already transformed into crabs hurrying to attack Minamoto no Yoshitsune’s ship, the print published by Fujiokaya Keijirō, c.1852 (Robinson T 266; Forrer, Kuniyoshi. Prestel 2020, 95).

A View of the Sea Bottom at Daimotsu Bay, with Taira no Tomomori and some other Taira heroes attached to a large anchor

The other project for a triptych composition, on the right edge, is more difficult to identify. Turning the portrait of Yuriwaka left, we see a group of persons to the right, a man swaying a sword or spear in the centre, and some diagonal lines on the left sheet. Eventually, we can associate this with the print of Benkei Master and Servant in Danger at the Ataka Barrier in the Province of Kaga [when Minamoto no Yoshitsune (1159-1189), the Master, and Benkei, the Servant, tried to escape from the troops of Hōjō no Tokimasa in the guise of travelling monks], Kaga no kuni Ataka no seki ni Benkei shūjū no kinan wo suku no zu, published by Tsujiokaya Bunsuke years later, in III/1856. The first sketch recording Kuniyoshi’s first idea of a composition was obviously quite severely adapted in the details, but the general composition remained intact. Anyway, this demonstrates that Kuniyoshi held on to his original ideas of c.1852 and didn’t think it a problem to get back to these some four years later.

Benkei Master and Servant in Danger at the Ataka Barrier in the Province of Kaga

As for the third sketch of a triptych composition, in the left margin, of which only a small part can be seen, it is too difficult to associate this with any known print. Anyway, so far this really may contribute to a much better understanding of Kuniyoshi’s practice as an artist.

De Groote Partij on Deshima, Nagasaki – Revisited

The well-known painting of De groote partij is best-known by its Dutch title of De groote partij in de kamer van het Opperhoofd zijn op het Eijland (The Great Party in the room of the Opperhoofd on the Island) that appears on at least four of eight known copies after the original by Kawahara Keiga 川原慶賀, where it is rather simply titled ‘Interior at Nagasaki Deshima’ (Nagasaki Deshima kannai no zu 長崎出島舘内之圖; see Deshimazu 229). In a rather spacious room with tatami mats and the sliding panels with glass panes open to view Nagasaki Bay with two Dutch vessels at anchor, we see a party of five Dutchmen, two Japanese gentlemen, three Japanese ladies, and a Malay servant and a little dog.

There have been various attempts at identifying the occasion and the people portrayed. The first, as far as I am aware, was Kuroda Genji 黒田源次 in his Nagasaki kei yōga 長崎系洋画. Tokyo: Sōgensha 創元社, 1932, pp. 84-87. Kuroda identifies the man in the centre behind the round table to be the Opperhoofd, the chief trader, possibly Jan Cock Blomhoff (1779-1853, Opperhoofd 1817-23) or maybe Joan Willem de Stürler (1774-1855, Opperhoofd 1823-26). Otherwise he is of the opinion that we shouldn’t see this as a realistic portrayal, rather some impression of life on Deshima. There is the man to the left watching the scene, the man who took of his coat and pouring himself a glass, and the man in the red coat attempting to embrace one of the Japanese ladies. The only one who seems to have some trouble with the setting is the young man in the foreground talking to the two Japanese gentlemen, interpreters he thinks, and he might well be Philipp Franz von Siebold (1796-1866, on Deshima 1823-29). The man to the right could, judging from his ‘Three Stars,’ mitsuboshi 三ツ星 mon on his hakama, even be Yoshio Gonnosuke 吉雄権之助. Yet, it seems unlikely that interpreters were allowed to wear a sword.

The Groote Partij, courtesy Tokyo University of Arts

C.R. Boxer in his Jan Compagnie in Japan 1600-1817. Tokyo, London and New York 1968, pp. 105f. does not agree at all with Kuroda and thinks that the painting may even be earlier. He imagines that the man in the red coat might represent Hendrik Doeff jr. (1777-1835, Opperhoofd 1803-17), “since he did have two children by a Japanese woman during his long sojourn in Nagasaki.” He also fails to accept Kuroda in his identifying Siebold in the man in the foreground. And the man standing to the left could well be some sailor—but these don’t come to the island. In his opinion, the man in the foreground is the only one trying to “raise the moral tone of the party, which if it continued as it had begun must have gone into the ‘wee sma’ hours’.” He then briefly mentions some more copies of the painting known to him (see below).

J. Stellingwerff in his De diepe wateren van Nagasaki. Franeker, 1983, p. 51, most likely following Boxer’s suggestion that it might well be Opperhoofd Doeff, concludes that the party might celebrate two centuries of Dutch-Japanese friendship on February 28th, 1809. He also sees the man in the red coat as Opperhoofd Doeff. In the centre behind the table would be the clerk Gozeman and the man pouring himself a glass the factory doctor Jan Frederik Feilke (died 1814). And it is the bookkeeper Brinkman who is involved in a discussion with the Japanese gentlemen, and to the left, standing, the clerk Schimmel. The ship at anchor would then be the American vessel Mount Vernon. Yet, he also admits that it might date from “twenty years later, as some other explanation has it.”

The most thorough discussion of the painting is by R.M. Vorstman, “De Groote Partij,” in Jaarverslag 1983 van de Vereeniging N.H.S.M. Amsterdam: Nederlands Scheepvaartmuseum, pp. 36-45, who didn’t want to accept Stellingwerff’s interpretation. He not only used the official Diary, the Dagregister, kept by Opperhoofd De Stürler, but thanks to the collaboration of Ms H.M.C. Boekwijt-de Sturler, he could also avail himself of some passages from his private notes and diaries. Recognizing that the copy of the painting which the Amsterdam Scheepvaartmuseum acquired in 1981, that inspired him to investigate it more closely, is a copy after the original by Kawahara Keiga (1786-1860s, accessed onto Deshima 1823–), made him look at the various festivities on Deshima in the years from 1809 to 1828. As there are, in the original at least, two Dutch ships at anchor, he realizes that this must be the trade season generally starting from August and we don’t have to consider events in January, June and December, leaving only the birthday party of King William I, celebrated on August 24th as a possibility. And the little dog in the painting made him go—as we will see later on—for the year 1825.

Quoting Van Overmeer Fisscher in his Bijdrage tot de kennis van het Japansche rijk. (Contribution to the Knowledge of the Japanese Empire) Amsterdam 1833, p. 272, Vorstman memorizes that:

     On the 20th day of the ninth month [that is October 31st, 1825], the ships must, in accordance with an Imperial decree, depart offshore to the Papenberg /…/ usually, the departing and incoming Governor who will change locations in this month, will visit the island and come on board the ships before their departure. The preparations and obligations involved with such occasions are not the least: the streets and the buildings are made clean, the soil is strewn with white sand on the streets. The houses must remain locked and nobody is allowed in the streets. The gentlemen are being entertained by the Opperhoofd and they are being accompanied by quite some attendants. On such occasions one has to bear with their Japanese compliment on the Japanese mats, and as long as one welcomes them or when they take leave, to sit on the flour in the same way the Japanese are accustomed to.

And somewhat later on, op p. 273, Fisscher adds:

     Beyond these festive occasions, we receive the Japanese, in our daily intercourse in our manner; they sit on chairs and the interpreters love to join our dinners. They are received twice a year for a party or banquet with the Opperhoofd, on the occasion of the birthday of the king and on the New Year, and they then usually, in addition to serving themselves real well, also take whatever is left over; most of them wrap it in paper and hide it in their wide sleeves.

As the Japanese gentlemen in the painting of the ‘Groote Partij’ are seated on chairs, Vorstman—and he is not the only one—concludes that the occasion must be the birthday of his majesty the king on August 24th, 1825, the celebration of which was postponed until October 8th. The reason for this was that there was still no sign of the Johanna Elisabeth, Captain M. Mesdagh, the second ship that had sailed from Batavia on July 2nd together with the Vasco de Gama, which already went for anchor at Nagasaki on August 6th. Opperhoofd De Stürler then notes in his Dagregister “The birthday of his Majesty. Had the flag risen. But postponed the celebration as we are uncertain about what causes the delay of the ship.” And on Saturday October 8th:

     Today we celebrated the birthday of his majesty the king which had been postponed since August 24th. The Opperhoofd was congratulated by the Dutch and the Japanese staff of the factory and he hosted a dinner where they attended. The flags were risen and in the evening the ships and the houses on Deshima were illuminated with lanterns.

The Vasco de Gama and the Johanna Elisabeth at anchor in Nagasaki Bay, courtesy National Archives, The Hague

Vorstman has several suggestions for the identities of the persons portrayed but I am afraid that he fails to fully convince me. In the man with the blue coat he recognizes Opperhoofd De Stürler, and in the young man in the foreground his son Jacques Eduard de Stürler (1800-1840). As for the obviously somewhat elder man in the red coat, he thinks this might be the Warehouse Master Van Overmeer Fisscher, then just 25 years old and thus not very likely. The man pouring himself another glass would be one of the captains of the ships, but then, where is the other one. As an alternative, he suggests Carl Hubert de Villeneuve, one of the assistants of Siebold, which is also not very likely as he neither sees Siebold or the other assistant Bürger in the picture. As for the man seen on the back, Vorstman proposes that he might be the clerk Verkerk Pistorius of whom De Stürler doesn’t think high, and this might explain his gesturing hand, as if to say get out of here. That, at least, is quite well possible.

To reach a fully convincing identification of the persons in the painting, we should have a closer look at the Deshima staff at the time. The oldest person in the factory is undoubtedly Opperhoofd De Stürler, then 50 years old. The second is Captain Ary Bezemer (1783-1853), then 41 or 42 years old. Follow Siebold, exactly 29 years old, Warehouse Master Van Overmeer Fisscher (1800-1848) and Carl Hubert de Villeneuve (1800-1874) both 25, the Scribe Pierre van Outeren is 24 years old, the clerk Verkerk Pistorius 20 years, and Heinrich Bürger (1806-1858) 19, even though he would mostly say that he was 21. We then probably should conclude that the man in the blue coat in the centre behind the round table must be Opperhoofd De Stürler, a courtesan holding a cat in her arms at his side. In De Stürler’s private diary we can find some note regarding his coat, as “He [the secretary of the governor] told me that he found my coat of dark blue velvet and richly embroidered in gold very beautiful and also asked whether he could see my hat that he thought equally beautiful” (August 5th, 1824). And the somewhat elder man to the right of him, in the red coat, who is obtruding himself upon the young courtesan, must then be Captain Bezemer. Remains the man wearing a hat who put his coat over the folding screen in the foreground, and the young man involved in a discussion with the two Japanese gentlemen. Anyway, he hardly looks like Siebold as we know him from Keiga paintings.

Again, we can find an answer in the Dagregister, when we read on Friday 21 October that the Opperhoofd organizes a reception for both the governors of Nagasaki:

     Then they [the two governors, having inspected the Dutch ships, see the quotation above from Fisscher] came to the Island and to my house where they were received in the best possible way and they were most condescending. I introduced them to my son whom they asked some questions and they made some flattering comments. Thereafter they went into the garden, watched a game of billiards, viewed the Collection of Natural curiosities of Dr. Von Siebold and then left the Island.

And in his private diary we can read that “They were treated to pastry and liquor and chocolate, etcetera, as is the custom.” Indeed, this was the customary inspection of the ships followed by the party, as one of the governors has returned from Edo and the other one will then depart for Edo, taking advantage of the opportunity to greet the Opperhoofd and eventually also get acquainted with the incoming Opperhoofd. Coincidentally, they were the same as last year, Hidekata Izumo no Kami 土方出雲守 and Takahashi Echizen no Kami 高橋越前守, visiting on October 31st, 1824. Then also, Siebold already lived in the large house in the garden where he enjoyed the space to store his collections. On that occasion, De Stürler notes in his private diary:

     /…/ whereupon they visited the house in the garden that is presently inhabited by the factory doctor, who played for them on his forte piano and showed them some 100 drawings of Japanese plants that will serve to be printed and published, which they were very pleased to hear.

In 1825, Opperhoofd De Stürler had one special wish, as can be inferred from his private diary, “and were most condescending /…/ my son, whom I had requested and received the permission to introduce to them /…/.” Yes, the Japanese really don’t like surprises, and this is the 25 years old Jacques Eduard de Stürler who took the opportunity, being on leave from his position in the Dutch East-Indies, to visit his father during the trade season at Deshima. And this is, indeed, the young man in the foreground talking with the two governors, Hidekata Izumo no Kami and Takahashi Echizen no Kami, both undoubtedly entitled to wear two swords, having of course left the long one at the entrance. And the man to the right in the painting who put his coat over the folding screen in the foreground would naturally be Captain Mesdagh whom the governors also had visited earlier that day on his ship. And the large party mentioned by Fisscher would be gathered in a more spacious room on the tatami mats, but this is no doubt a short gathering before they would join the real ‘Groote Partij.’ If, indeed, there was something like a Groote Partij, as Opperhoofd De Stürler notes “/…/ and then left the Island.”

Anyway, it would seem highly unlikely if Opperhoofd De Stürler’ dog would also run after the dishes as these were served in the larger room with all the guests seated on the tatami. Feeling sometimes a little lonely on Deshima, De Stürler imagined that a dog would be some nice company. On July 15th, 1824, he notes in his private diary that he had received from “Tamifatsiro” /…/ “also the dog.” And in December 1825, he notes that “The son of Dennosin had bought a dog for me from the nest /…/ but instead he gave me one of at least a year and a half. Captain Bezemer has taken it over from me.” Most probably this is Tamehachirō 為八郎 (?), the son of Yokota Dennoshin 横田伝之進 (?), the 2nd secretary of the governor who, as we already saw, so much liked the blue coat of the Opperhoofd. And thus, everything is accounted for in this private visit of the two governors of Nagasaki to the Opperhoofd, having earlier that day, October 21st, 1825, inspected both the Dutch ships. In the end, we are sorry to say that Vorstman, who in a letter of April 1982 still believed that “the painting of the Groote Partij should be associated with the visit of both governors at Deshima on October 21st, 1825,” would in the end come to conclude that the occasion would rather be the celebration of the king’s birthday on October 8. All the evidence from De Stürler’s private diaries that Ms Boekwijt-de Sturler shared with him, and who in her letter of September 1983 correctly suggested that the painting recorded the visit on October 21st, failed to convince him.

Kawahara Keiga: A party dining in the house of the Opperhoofd of Deshima, possibly a trial to fit the figures in the painting of the Groote Partij (Courtesy PC, Japan)

We again find Opperhoofd De Stürler’s doggy and the less formally dressed man in another Keiga painting, also an interior in the house of the Opperhoofd. Stellingwerff sees this as some preparatory study for the Groote Partij. As the painter Kiosky [sic] had problems with the perspective “/…/ Kiosky tried it out by making various copies of two scenes, one with the figures arranged around a circular table in the centre of the large room and another with them seated at a table in the corner.” Most likely, Stellingwerff refers to a painting in a Japanese private collection, reproduced in Nagasaki hanga to ikoku no omokage. Tokyo: Itabashi Kuritsu Bijutsukan, 2017, 120. It has a party of eight men seated at a table and two courtesans standing behind, and De Stürler’s doggy running behind the Malay servant who brings in a saucer with some dish. The window panels are wide open to reveal a wide view of Nagasaki Bay with two Dutch vessels at anchor to the right, and two Chinese to the left. By the railing is a telescope on a stand. The Opperhoofd De Stürler is again seated in the centre behind the table, and at his side is again the courtesan holding a cat. Next to him, standing and cutting a piece of fried ribs, Siebold directly identifiable from the green cap from his student days in Würzburg where he was a member of the student society Moenania. Opposite of him is Bürger, recognizable from the fur-rimmed hat to cover his head, being Jewish. In between them, at the far end of the table must be De Villeneuve. The man to the left of the Opperhoofd must then be Captain Mesdagh, wearing his hat and again pouring himself a glass. Finally, next to Bürger, we find the young Jacques Eduard de Stürler and the two Governors of Nagasaki seated at the short end of the table. But then, Captain Bezemer is missing, so this trial didn’t work out. Apart from some empty bottles on the floor by the wall, we also can notice that it seems that a wild boar’s head is being served on the table.

A dinner at the house of the Opperhoofd at Deshima, courtesy Nagasaki Prefectural Museum of History and Culture

It then appears that Keiga did manage to fit in all the figures in the version with the round table, and if this speculation would be correct, this painting served as a preparatory study for another Keiga painting, also an interior in the house of the Opperhoofd (see Deshimazu 222H). This one has less of the bay and no Dutch vessels in it. The Opperhoofd De Stürler is again seated behind the table in the centre, and at his side is again the courtesan holding a cat. Next to him, standing and cutting the meat, Siebold, and opposite of him is Bürger, and in between them at the far end of the table De Villeneuve. To the left of the Opperhoofd again Captain Mesdagh, wearing his hat and again pouring himself a glass. The somewhat elder man seated at the short end of the table must then be Captain Bezemer, and finally, next to Bürger, we again find the young Jacques Eduard de Stürler. In this way we indeed have a most likely company gathered for the dinner that is served every day in the Large Opperhoofd’s House. Moreover, we can now also roughly date this painting to sometime in between late August and October 31st, 1825, when the ships sail to the Papenberg. And the dog that Captain Bezemer would later, on 20 December take along to Batavia, is here still playfully running after the Malay servant bringing in some saucer with some leg.

De Groote Partij op Deshima opnieuw bezien

De bekende schildering van Kawahara Keiga van De Groote Partij, naar de Nederlandse titel De groote partij, in de kamer van het Opperhoofd, zijn op het Eijland zoals die voorkomt op tenminste vier van mogelijk acht bekende copieën die naar het origineel van Keiga werden gemaakt (zie hieronder voor een overzicht) heeft op het origineel de vrij neutrale titel ‘Interieur in Nagasaki Deshima,’ Nagasaki Deshima kannai no zu 長崎出島舘内之圖 (Deshimazu 229). In een ruim vertrek met tatami-matten en de beglaasde schuifpanelen open voor een uitzicht op de Baai van Nagasaki met twee Hollandse schepen voor anker, zien we een gezelschap van vijf Hollanders, twee Japanse heren, drie Japanse dames, een Maleise bediende en een hondje.

Verschillende schrijvers hebben zich moeite getroost de gelegenheid en de afgebeelde personen te duiden. De vroegste bron, mij bekend, is Kuroda Genji in zijn Nagasaki kei yōga 長崎系洋画. Tokyo: Sōgensha 創元社, 1932, pp. 84-87. Kuroda gaat ervan uit dat de man midden achter de ronde tafel het opperhoofd zal zijn, daarbij denkend aan ofwel Jan Cock Blomhoff (1779-1853, Opperhoofd 1817-23) ofwel Joan Willem de Stürler (1774-1855, Opperhoofd 1823-26). Maar overigens denkt hij niet dat we dit als een waarachtige schildering naar de werkelijkheid moeten zien, eerder een impressie van het leven op Deshima. Zo is daar de man links die we op de rug zien die het geheel gadeslaat, de man die zijn jas heeft uitgetrokken en zich rustig, het ene been over het andere geslagen, nog een glas inschenkt, en de man in de rode jas die zich aan de Japanse dame opdringt. De enige die wat problemen met de hele setting lijkt te hebben is de man in de voorgrond in gesprek met de twee Japanse heren, tolken denkt hij, en dat zou Philipp Franz von Siebold (1796-1866, op Deshima 1823-29) kunnen zijn. In de man rechts meent hij zelfs, vanwege zijn ‘Drie Sterren,’ mitsuboshi 三ツ星 mon op zijn hakama Yoshio Gonnosuke 吉雄権之助 te herkennen. Overigens lijkt het onwaarschijnlijk dat tolken een zwaard zouden mogen dragen.

De Groote Partij (Courtesy Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku)

C.R. Boxer in zijn Jan Compagnie in Japan 1600-1817. Tokyo, London en New York 1968, pp. 105f. is het in het geheel niet met Kuroda eens en meent dat de schildering zelfs vroeger kan zijn. Daarbij denkt hij dat de man in de rode jas Hendrik Doeff jr. (1777-1835, Opperhoofd 1803-17) zou kunnen voorstellen, “since he had two children by a Japanese woman during his long sojourn in Nagasaki.” Ook met Kuroda’s gedachte dat de jonge Hollander in gesprek met de Japanners Siebold zou zijn is hij het niet eens. De man op de rug gezien ziet hij als een matroos van een van de schepen—maar die komen nooit op het eiland. De jonge man in gesprek met de twee Japanners probeert volgens hem de avond die “if it continued as it had begun must have gone into the ‘wee sma’ hours’” nog enigszins de schijn van fatsoen te verlenen. Verder vermeldt hij nog enige andere copieën van de schildering die hem bekend zijn.

Hoogstwaarschijnlijk voortbordurend op de suggestie van Boxer dat het wel Doeff zou kunnen zijn, komt J. Stellingwerff in zijn De diepe wateren van Nagasaki. Franeker, 1983, p. 51 tot de conclusie dat deze partij de viering van twee eeuwen Nederlands-Japanse vriendschap verbeeldt, gevierd op 28 februari 1809. Daar ziet hij, evenals Boxer, in de man met de rode jas Opperhoofd Doeff jr. Midden achter de tafel zit dan de klerk Gozeman en de man die zich het glas inschenkt zou de factorijarts J.F. Feilke (stierf 1814) zijn. De boekhouder Brinkman is dan de man in gesprek met de Japanse heren, en linkst staat de klerk Schimmel. Het schip voor anker zou dan de Amerikaanse Mount Vernon zijn. Toch houdt Stellingwerff andere mogelijkheden open, “Of werd de tekening van de grote partij toch twintig jaar later gemaakt, zoals een andere verklaring wil?”

De meest uitgebreide bespreking van de schildering is die van R.M. Vorstman, “De Groote Partij,” in Jaarverslag 1983 van de Vereeniging N.H.S.M. Amsterdam: Nederlands Scheepvaartmuseum, pp. 36-45 die zich kennelijk niet wilde neerleggen bij het verhaal van Stellingwerff. In zijn zeer degelijke onderzoek maakte Vorstman niet alleen gebruik van het officiële Dagregister dat Opperhoofd De Stürler bijhield, maar dankzij Mevr H.M.C. Boekwijt-de Sturler kon hij ook beschikken over verscheidene passages uit de particuliere dagboeken van het opperhoofd.[1] Het feit dat het exemplaar dat het Amsterdamse Scheepvaartmuseum in 1981 verwierf, de aanleiding voor zijn studie, een copie betrof naar een origineel van Kawahara Keiga 川原慶賀 (1786-1860er jaren, toegang tot Deshima 1823–), gaf hem aanleiding te kijken naar de verschillende feesten op Deshima in de jaren 1809 t/m 1828. Aangezien er, althans in de originele schildering, twee Hollandse schepen voor anker zichtbaar zijn en dit op de Handelstijd wijst die doorgaans vanaf Augustus begint, valt een aantal feesten in januari, juni en december af en blijft alleen het verjaardagsfeest van Koning Willem I op 24 augustus over als een mogelijke aanleiding voor de Groote Partij. Verder geeft het hondje in de schildering—zoals we later zullen zien—hem aanleiding die viering van de verjaardag in 1825 te situeren.

Van Overmeer Fisscher in zijn Bijdrage tot de kennis van het Japansche rijk. Amsterdam 1833, p. 272, aanhalend, memoreert Vorstman dat:

     Op den 20en der negende maand [en dat is 31 october 1825] moeten de schepen, volgens een keizerlijk bevel, naar de buitenreede of den Papenberg vertrekken /…/ Gewoonlijk krijgt men kort voor dit vertrek op het Eiland en aan boord der schepen een bezoek van den aftredenden en aankomenden Gouverneur, die elkaar in deze maand vervangen. De toebereidselen en pligtplegingen bij dergelijke gelegenheden zijn niet gering: de straten en de gebouwen worden schoongemaakt, en de grond met een pad wit zand bestrooid. De huizen moeten gesloten blijven, en niemand mag zich op straat begeven. Genoemde Heeren worden bij het Opperhoofd onthaald, en brengen eenen geduchten stoet van gevolg mede. Bij dergelijke gelegenheden moet men zich getroosten, om het Japansch compliment op de matten af te leggen, en zoo lang men hen verwelkomt of hun de afscheidsgroet geeft, op den grond te zitten, op dezelfde wijze, als de Japanners zulks gewoon zijn.

En iets later, op p. 273, vervolgt Fisscher:

     Buiten genoemde plegtige gelegenheden ontvangen wij de Japanners, in den dagelijkschen omgang, naar onze wijze; zij zetten zich op stoelen, en de tolken zijn gaarne aan onzen disch. Zij krijgen tweemaal ’s jaars eene partij of gastmaal bij het Opperhoofd, ter gelegenheid van ’s Konings Verjaardag en bij het Nieuwejaar, en hebben alsdan de gewoonte, om, behalve dat zij zich zelve ruim te goed doen, al het overschietende mede te nemen; de meesten pakken het eten in papier, en verbergen het in hunne wijde mouwen.

Aangezien de twee Japanse heren in de schildering van de ‘Groote Partij’ op stoelen zitten, komt Vorstman—en hij is niet de enige—tot de conclusie dat de gelegenheid wel de viering van de verjaardag van Z.M. de Koning op 24 augustus 1825 moet zijn, met dien verstande dat die viering in 1825 werd uitgesteld tot 8 october. De reden hiervoor was dat op die dag nog niets vernomen was van de Johanna Elisabeth, kapitein M. Mesdagh, het tweede schip dat op 2 juli gelijktijdig met de Vasco de Gama, kapitein A. Bezemer, vanuit Batavia naar Nagasaki vertrokken was, terwijl de laatste daar al op 6 augustus voor anker ging. Zo noteert Opperhoofd De Stürler op 24 augustus in zijn DagregisterZ.M. Geboortedag. Liet de groote vlag hijschen. Doch stelde de viering daar van uit wegens de ongewisheid waarin wij ons bevinden over het uitblijven van het schip”. En dan, op zaterdag 8 october:

     De sedert den 240 Augustus uitgestelde viering van den verjaardag van Z.M. den Koning had heden plaats. Het Opperhoofd ontving felicitaties van de Nederlandsche en Japansche Ambtenaren bij de faktorij en gaf een diner waarbij dezelve tegenwoordig waren. De vlaggen wierden geheschen en de s’avonds waren de schepen en de woningen op Dezima met lantaarns geillumineerd.

De Vasco de Gama en de Johanna Elisabeth voor anker in de Baai van Nagasaki, 1825 (Courtesy Nationaal Archief, Den Haag)

Vorstman komt met enkele suggesties voor de identiteit van de afgebeelde personen, maar weet mij niet geheel te overtuigen. In de man met de blauwe jas herkent Vorstman het Opperhoofd De Stürler, en in de jonge man in de voorgrond zijn zoon Jacques Eduard de Stürler (1800-1840). Overigens denkt hij dat de (wat oudere) man in de rode jas Pakhuismeester Van Overmeer Fisscher (1800-1848) zou zijn, die dan net 25 jaar oud is, en dat lijkt dus niet erg waarschijnlijk. Zijn identificatie van de man die zich het glas inschenkt als een van beide kapiteins heeft het nadeel dat dan de andere kapitein ontbreekt. De alternatieve identificatie die hij geeft, als Carl Hubert de Villeneuve (1800-1874), een van de assistenten van Siebold, lijkt ook minder waarschijnlijk wanneer Siebold noch Bürger aanwezig zijn. En wat betreft de man op de rug gezien, komt hij met de suggestie van de klerk Verkerk Pistorius waarvan De Stürler geen hoge dunk heeft en vandaar waarschijnlijk dat wegwuivende gebaar. Dat is zeker heel goed denkbaar.

Om tot een volledig sluitende en overtuigende identificatie van de personen in de schildering te komen meen ik dat we iets nader naar de toenmalige bemanning van de Deshima moeten kijken. De oudste in de handelspost is zonder twijfel Opperhoofd De Stürler, dan 50 jaar oud. De tweede is kapitein Ary Bezemer (1783-1853) en dus 41 of 42 jaar oud. Dan komt Siebold, precies 29 jaar oud, Pakhuismeester Overmeer Fisscher en Carl Hubert de Villeneuve zijn beiden 25, de Scriba Pierre van Outeren is 24 jaar, de klerk Verkerk Pistorius 20 jaar, en Heinrich Bürger (1806-1858) 19, ook al zei hijzelf liever dat hij 21 was. Dan moeten we wel concluderen dat de man in de blauwe jas midden achter de ronde tafel Opperhoofd De Stürler is, naast hem een courtisane met een poes in de armen. Over die blauwe jas vinden we een opmerking in het particuliere dagboek van De Stürler “Hij [de Secretaris van den Gouverneur] gaf mij te kennen dat hij mijn rok, die van donkerblauw fluweel met goud rijk geborduurd was, zeer fraai vond en verzocht ook mijn hoed te mogen zien, dien hem ingelijks zeer fraai toescheen” (5 augustus 1824). En de wat oudere man die rechts van hem zit, met de rode jas, die zich aan de jonge courtisane opdringt, zal dan toch Kapitein Bezemer moeten zijn. Resteren de man met zijn hoed op het hoofd die zijn jas over het kamerscherm in de voorgrond heeft gelegd, en de jonge man in gesprek met de twee Japanse heren. In elk geval lijkt hij niet of nauwelijks op Siebold zoals we die van schilderingen van Keiga kennen.

Een antwoord vinden we alweer in het Dagregister, waar we op vrijdag 21 oktober 1825 lezen dat het Opperhoofd een ontvangst voor beide gouverneurs van Nagasaki organiseert:

     Ze kwamen vervolgens [dat zijn de beide gouverneurs, na een inspectie van de schepen, zie het citaat van Fisscher hierboven] op het Eiland aan mijn huis waar zij op de best mogelijke wijze wierden ontvangen en zich zeer minzaam betoonden. Ik stelde hun mijnen zoon voor aan wien zij eenige vragen deden en vleijende gezegden toevoegden. Zij gingen vervolgens naar den Tuin zagen biljard spelen, bezigtigden de Verzameling van Nat. Zeldzaamheden van Dr. Von Siebold en verlieten daarna het Eiland.

En in zijn particuliere dagboek lezen we nog dat “Er wierd hun gebak en liqueur en chocolade enz. als volgens gebruiken gepresenteerd”. Inderdaad ‘als volgens gebruiken’ bij deze jaarlijks terugkerende partij wanneer de ene gouverneur uit Edo terugkeert en de andere naar Edo afreist, en zij gezamenlijk de gelegenheid te baat nemen zowel de schepen te inspecteren als het opperhoofd te begroeten, en eventueel kennis te maken met het aankomende opperhoofd. Overigens waren de beide gouverneurs dezelfde die ook het jaar tevoren, toen op 31 oktober 1824, deze inspectie uitvoerden, Hidekata Izumo no Kami 土方出雲守 en Takahashi Echizen no Kami 高橋越前守. Ook toen woonde Siebold al in het grote huis in de tuin waar hij alle ruimte had om zijn verzameling op te slaan. Bij die gelegenheid noteert De Stürler in zijn particuliere dagboek:

     /…/ waarna zij het huis in den tuin, thans door den Dokter bewoond, hebben bezichtigd, die voor hen op de forte piano gespeeld en hun vertoond heeft 100 afteekeningen van Jap. Planten, bestemd om met meerdere alhier in druk te worden uitgegeven over welk een en ander zij hun genoegen te kennen gaven.

In 1825 had De Stürler nog een extra wens, zoals uit een toevoeging in zijn particuliere dagboek blijkt “/…/ en zich uiterst minzaam betoonden /…/ door aan mijnen zoon, welken ik hun verzocht en verkregen had, te mogen voorstellen …” Ja, de Japanners houden niet van verrassingen, en dat is de dan 25-jarige Jacques Eduard de Stürler die, met verlof uit Nederlands Indië, van de gelegenheid gebruik maakt zijn vader tijdens de handelsperiode op Deshima te bezoeken. Hij is dan ook de jonge man in de voorgrond in gesprek met de beide gouverneurs, Hidekata Izumo no Kami en Takahashi Echizen no Kami, beiden zeker gerechtigd twee zwaarden te dragen, het lange zwaard hebben zij vanzelfsprekend bij de ingang achtergelaten. Dan rest slechts de man in de schildering rechts die zijn jas over het kamerscherm in de voorgrond heeft gelegd en zich een glas jenever inschenkt. Dat moet dan wel Kapitein M. Mesdagh zijn, ook deelgenoot in de inspectie van de schepen door de beide gouverneurs. En het grote gezelschap waarvan Fisscher spreekt zal mogelijk wel in een grotere ruimte dan deze op de matten zitten, maar dit is ongetwijfeld even een kort samenzijn alvorens men zich voor de echte ‘Groote Partij’ bij dat gezelschap voegt. Als er al een Groote Partij was, Opperhoofd De Stürler schrijft immers “/…/ en verlieten daarna het Eiland”.

In elk geval lijkt het hoogst onwaarschijnlijk dat het hondje van Opperhoofd De Stürler ook in die grote ruimte met tatami en alle gasten op de grond zittend vrolijk achter het eten aan zou mogen huppelen. Omdat De Stürler zich soms wat alleen voelde op Deshima dacht hij wel een hondje te willen hebben. Op 15 juli 1824 noteert hij in zijn particuliere dagboek dat hij van “Tamifatsiro” /…/ “ook het hondje” had ontvangen. En in december 1825 “De zoon van Dennosin had voor mij een hondje in den nest gekocht /…/ doch in plaats gaf hij er mij een van tenminste 1½ jaaren oud. Kapt Bezemer heeft hem van mij overgenomen”. Dit is hoogstwaarschijnlijk Tamehachirō 為八郎 (?), de zoon van Yokota Dennoshin 横田伝之進 (?), de 2e secretaris van de gouverneur die, zoals we al zagen, de blauwe jas van het opperhoofd zo mooi vond. En zo valt alles precies op zijn plaats voor dit wat particuliere bezoek van de beide gouverneurs van Nagasaki aan het opperhoofd, na eerder die dag, 21 oktober, de schepen te hebben geïnspecteerd.

Tot slot moeten we helaas vaststellen dat Vorstman, die er in een brief van april 1982 nog van uitging dat “de voorstelling van de Groote Partij betrekking heeft op het bezoek van de beide Gouverneurs aan Deshima op 21 oktober 1825” zich uiteindelijk niet door alle door mevrouw Boekwijt-de Sturler aangedragen passages uit de particuliere dagboeken van De Stürler liet overtuigen, die ‘de Groote Partij’ in haar brief van september 1983 wèl met de ontvangst op 21 oktober 1825 associëert.

Kawahara Keiga: Een gezelschap aan de maaltijd in het huis van het Opperhoofd van Deshima, mogelijk een proef om de figuren in de Groote Partij te plaatsen
(Courtesy PC, Japan)

Het hondje van Opperhoofd De Stürler en de wat nonchalant geklede man zien we ook in een andere schildering van Kawahara Keiga, alweer een interieur in het huis van het Opperhoofd. Stellingwerff ziet hierin een voorstudie voor de Groote Partij. Omdat de schilder Kiosky [sic] problemen met het perspectief had “/…/ oefende Kiosky zichzelf door het maken van verschillende exemplaren van twee taferelen, één met de figuren om een ronde tafel in het midden van de grote kamer en één aan de eettafel in de hoek van het vertrek.” Hoogstwaarschijnlijk doelt Stellingwerff hier op een schildering in particulier bezit, gereproduceerd in Nagasaki hanga to ikoku no omokage. Tokyo: Itabashi Kuritsu Bijutsukan, 2017, 120. Daar zien we een gezelschap van acht heren aan een tafel, en twee courtisanes, en het hondje van De Stürler dat achter een Maleise bediende loopt die een schaal met een gerecht naar de tafel brengt. De schuifpanelen zijn alle naar de kant geschoven waardoor we een vrij uitzicht over de Baai van Nagasaki hebben met rechts twee Hollandse schepen voor anker en links twee Chinese. Aan de rand van de balustrade staat een telescoop op een statief. Achter de tafel zit Opperhoofd De Stürler met naast zich een courtisane met een poes in de armen. Rechts van hem staat Siebold die een stuk gebraden ribben aansnijdt, direct herkenbaar aan de groene muts uit zijn studietijd in Würzburg waar hij lid was van de Moenania studentenclub. Tegenover hem zit Bürger, herkenbaar aan de hoed met bontrand waarmee hij, als Jood, het hoofd gedekt houdt. Aan het eind van de tafel moet dan wel De Villeneuve zitten. Links van het opperhoofd zien we kennelijk weer Kapitein Mesdagh die zich, met zijn hoed op het hoofd, weer zijn glas volschenkt. Tegenover hem, rechts van Bürger, zien we weer de Stürler junior in gesprek met de beide gouverneurs van Nagasaki. Behalve het stuk ribben dat Siebold aansnijdt is kennelijk ook de kop van een wild zwijn opgediend. Wel is een probleem dat Kapitein Bezemer zo geen plek in het gezelschap kreeg.

Een maaltijd in het Groot Opperhoofd’s Woonhuis (Courtesy Prefectural Museum of History and Culture, Nagasaki)

Maar gelukkig slaagde Keiga er wel in het hele gezelschap in de schildering met de ronde tafel een plek te geven en, als deze speculatie klopt, gebruikte hij deze compositie als een vingeroefening voor een beter bekende schildering van een gezelschap aan tafel in het huis van het opperhoofd met veel minder baai en geen Hollandse schepen. Ook hier zit Opperhoofd De Stürler in het midden achter de tafel en naast hem weer de courtisane die een poes in haar armen houdt. Naast hem, staand en het vlees snijdend, Siebold, en tegenover hem, Bürger. Tussen hen in aan het verre eind van de tafel alweer De Villeneuve. Links van het opperhoofd zit dan Kapitein Mesdagh, die met zijn hoed op alweer zijn glas volschenkt. De wat oudere man aan de korte kant van de tafel moet dan wel Kapitein Bezemer zijn, en als laatste zit alweer de jonge Jacques Eduard de Stürler naast Bürger. Zo hebben we inderdaad een alleszins denkbaar gezelschap aan tafel voor de maaltijd die dagelijks in het Groot Opperhoofds woonhuis wordt opgediend. Bovendien kunnen we nu ook deze schildering nader dateren tussen eind augustus wanneer beide schepen veilig voor anker zijn en 31 october wanneer ze weer vertrekken naar de Papenberg. En inderdaad huppelt het hondje dat Kapitein Bezemer later, op 20 december, mee zou nemen naar Batavia, nog steeds vrolijk achter de Maleise bediende aan die een schotel eten binnenbrengt.


[1] Evenzo kon ik dankzij Björn de Sturler over die passages beschikken die voor deze interpretatie van De Groote Partij van groot belang waren.