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.

Sekien Books of Ghosts – Ctd 5

After the Konjaku Zoku hyakki, the Sequel to the Hundred Ghosts, had been published in I/1779, Sekien wasn’t given too much of a break. The continuing success made his publishers again ask him for more. And so he started working on the Konjaku – Hyakki shūi 今昔百鬼拾遺, something like ‘Gleanings of a Hundred Ghosts,’ that was published in I/1781. It is again a publication in 3 volumes hanshibon, with as mottos Clouds, Dew, and Rain. It has two prefaces and apparently also a postface. But let’s first give the collation:

The Rain Woman Courtesy Smithsonian Institution, Washington

Konjaku – Hyakki shūi 今昔百鬼拾遺

3 vols hanshibon Vol 1 Kumo 雲 (Clouds) 12 sh: 4 pp pref to the Hyakki shūi 百鬼拾遺 signed Genshū Shōbukan 元洲勝武幹, s: Genshū, Shōbukan no in 印: 元洲, 勝武幹之印, dated Anei jū kanoto mi no haru 安永十辛巳春 (Anei 10 year of the Snake, Spring, I/1781); 2 pp pref signed Sekien jijo 石燕自序 (Sekien’s own preface), dated Anei kyū no toshi rōgetsu 安永九のとし蝋月 [sic, for 臘月] (Anei 9 twelfth month, XII/1780); 1 p contents for Hyakki yagyō shūi 百鬼夜行拾遺; 2 pp frontispiece: the mirage of a clam, shinkirō 蜃気楼; 15 pp ills. Vol 2 Tsuyu 露 (Dew) 10 sh: 1 p contents; 19 pp ills. Vol 3 Ame 雨 (Rain) 9 sh: 1 p contents; 14 pp ills; 2 pp ill of Daikoku celebrating the New Year; 1 p colophon: Anei jū kanoto ushi no haru 安永十辛丑春 (Anei 10 year of the Ox, I/1781)/ Toriyama Sekien Toyofusa 鳥山石燕豊房/ assisted by his pupils Shikō 子興 (Eishōsai Chōki 栄松齋長喜)/ Enji 燕二/ block-cutter Inoue Shinshichi 井上新七/ Edo publ 江戸 Izumoji Izuminojō  出雲寺和泉掾/ Enshūya Yashichi 遠州屋弥七.

This is after a copy in the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington (ex Gerhard Pulverer , ex Henri Vever [1948:285])

The first preface, in the Joly & Inada translation, reads as follows (my annotations in square brackets):

The artist Sekiyen is a retired old man of very gentle character, he is very fond of his garden the pond of which is “9 hiro deep” (9 fathoms or brasses [仭, an ancient Chinese measure, one jin ranging from four to eight shaku, or 121 – 242 cm]) he amuses himself in that garden all the year round, in flowering spring, and in the cool shade on hot summer days (shūzui tekka nawazu [秋水荻花□]) in autumn the stream flows to the pond, laden with the floating blossoms of Hagi [萩 bush clover], in winter the whole garden is a white mass of snow, and as he thus amuses himself he does not notice the years (growing old). When anyone of similar taste pays him a visit, he offers them excellent tea and talks about painting. When he takes up his brush, he can finish more than a hundred subjects at once. He is not too old when it comes to drawing & I am astonished at the easy way in which he draws like a young man. And in consequence, he has many pupils and he has published many books well known to the public.

In the spring of the Monkey year [1776] he published Hiakki Yagio [Hyakki yagyō], the latter part of which came out during the Boar year [the Zoku hyakki, 1779], both are now out, and this year his publisher asked him for some more ghost pictures. So the old one said: If I draw this sort of subject so often, I am afraid that it may spoil my energy and that moreover, in years to come I shall be laughed at and many devils & Bakemono will be annoyed at my paintings. So his publisher said: Artists must have very superior minds (above these considerations) and if the devils are annoyed, just as if millet grains looked like drops of rain it would show the power of Art.

So earnestly did he ask the old man that Sekiyen at last took his brush again, collecting all sorts of Bakemono, to publish the third volume under the title Hiakki Shui. He asked me for a preface and I have accepted although my knowledge is so small. As the old man said: this is just for the fun of it and for the amusement of children so that you need not worry very much, & therefore I wrote this preface notwithstanding my ignorance.

Anyei 10 [1781], Genshu Tobu

Hairy Wings for a Hairy Manifestation Courtesy Smithsonian Institution, Washington

The second preface, in the Joly & Inada translation, reads as follows:

Waka (Japanese poetry) has the power of expressing all feelings (even those of inanimate things). Thus paintings describe all sorts of Bakemono and devils, exaggerated by the brush as I thought of them in my mind. I am quite ashamed to have drawn such a book, but my publisher wanted it so much because it was, said he, a very good sort of book to stop children crying, and he asked me again and again for it, so that finally I have agreed to have it put upon cherry wood blocks.

Anyei 9th December [XII/1780], Sekiyen

Joly & Inada then add a postface that is apparently missing in the Freer copy, which reads as follows:

There was once a pigeon which was changed into a golden hook, and a deer that became a writing brush. Age is a treasure (old people are quite important).

Sekiyen although 72 years old is still in splendid health. He has finished from the beginning of Hiakki Yagio [Hyakki yagyō, 1776] to the latter part [the Zoku hyakki, 1779], and he has had many prefaces from many people famed in literature. At last he has succeeded in drawing another volume to add to the last edition. It is very interesting that so many devils could be made from furniture, I am surprised that he has been able to change from ordinary utensils into so many wonderful designs of Bakemono. Though he is so old, yet he has wonderful strength to draw such minute pictures and he his [is] still young in that respect. He asked me for a postface and I have written this.

Old man of Kanda (神田庵主人)

Again another nice problem, where does this postface come from, it was certainly not present in the 1805 reprint by Maekawa Rokuzaemon 前川六左衛門 and Maekawa Yahei 前川弥兵衛, at least not in the copy of this printing in the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, the only other copy I could, so far, locate on the internet and also used by Yoda and Alt.  

Sekien Books of Ghosts Ctd 4

The second in Sekien’s parade of Ghost Books is the Konjaku zoku hyakki 今昔続百鬼 also found with the title Konjaku gazu – Zoku hyakki 今昔畫圖 続百鬼 of 1779. It is again in the hanshibon format and comprised of three volumes. I couldn’t find a complete set of images of a first edition copy on the internet—the British Museum has two copies and cites somewhat strange dates for them and only pics of three pages. A copy of the 1805 reprint in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, is as follows:

An Ōkubi, or Large Head
Courtesy Smithsonian Institution, Washington

Konjaku gazu – Zoku hyakki 今昔畫圖 続百鬼  – 3 vols hanshibon Vol 1 – U 雨 (Rain) 10 sh: 4 pp pref headed Hyakki yagyō daiji 百鬼夜行 題辞 (prefatory motto) signed Katakian Dōjin 頑菴道人 s: Katakian Dōjin, xxkin no shō, 印: 頑菴道人, □瑾之章, of the Sengyūkan at the Kichijōrin (the Kichijō Grove, probably near Kichijō Temple, or in the village named after it), in the Nippori District in the Eastern Capital (Edo) 東都日莫里吉祥林之穿牛觀 dated Anei tsuchinoe inu kishū no hi 安永戊戌季秋日 (Anei year of the Dog, one Autumn day, IX/1778); 2 pp pref preceded by the seal Reiryōdō 零陵洞 (one of Sekien’s art names) signed Toriyama Sekien 鳥山石燕 s: unread, Sekien no in 印:□, 石燕之印; 1 p contents; 13 pp ills. Vol 2 – Kau 晦 (Darkness) 11 sh: 1 p contents; 21 pp ills. Vol 3 – Mei 明 (Clearness) 11 sh: 1 p contents; 21 pp ills; ibc colophon: Toriyama Sekien Toyofusa 鳥山石燕豊房/ assisted by his pupils 校合門人 Shikō 子興 (Eishōsai Chōki 栄松齋長喜)/ Enji 燕二/ Enjū 燕十(Shimizu Enjū 志水燕十 1747-1810)/ Anei hachi tsuchinoto i no haru 安永八己亥春 (Anei 8 year of the Boar [I/1779])/ Bunka ni kinoto ushidoshi kyūhan 文化二乙丑年求板 (reprinted Bunka 2 year of the Ox [1805])/ block-cutter Machida Sukeemon 町田助右衛門/ Edo bookshops Maekawa Rokuzaemon 江戸 前川六左衛門/ Maekawa Yahei 前川弥兵衛.

Another copy with the 1805 dating, published by Maekawa Magobei 前川孫兵衛 and Maekawa Rokuzaemon 前川六左衛門, has only the Sekien preface (National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden RV-1-4459 — and was probably bought by Siebold in 1826). This is apparently also the case with the Regamey copy, as Joly & Inada only give a translation of the Sekien preface.

A Hannya, or Woman Turned Demon
Courtesy Smithsonian Institution, Washington

The Sekien preface reads as follows:

From very ancient times hundreds of devils and Bakemono [ghosts and apparitions] have been depicted by Jozu (上手 experts) and handed down in various families. As I was asked to copy them with my unskilled brush, I became very greatly interested, for there were so many dreadful bakemono that I was afraid the real devil might suddenly appear (to me) in this world. The publisher of my previous books asked me for this volume as an addition to the last one and I have accepted his offer.

The Sekien prefaces and postscripts are admittedly not extremely inspired, but in view of Sekien’s quite specific remark on the problem ’to make the faces of the ghosts that we cannot see with our eyes frightening’ and his likening this to ‘a dragon that might appear,’ the Yoda & Alt translation is more faithful to the original:

Since times of old, the night parade of the demon horde has been passed down, copied and kept in the houses of the great masters. Here I have acquiesced to demands to apply my humble techniques to the topic. There’s no hope of achieving realism when it comes to the fearsome faces of things that can’t be seen with the human eye, but I can at least shock and awe, and so I have tried my best with humble skills to capture their bizarre forms once again. Running my fingers over my beloved earlier work, I mused: I certainly love drawing this sort of thing, but what if a real demon showed up? When a certain man got a visit from a real dragon it was utterly terrifying.* But even still, when the bookseller pleaded for a sequel to my book of a few years back, I found it hard to refuse. And so I, Toriyama Sekien, find myself again taking up my brush under the moonlight.**

* (A Chinese parable about a magistrate named Ye who loved dragons so much that he decorated his entire house with dragon figures and motifs. And one day, an actual dragon dropped by to thank him. But upon seeing the “real deal,” Ye turned and ran in terror.)

** [‘under the moonlight’ reads as Gessō no moto 月窓下, ‘under my moonlit window,’ one of Sekien’s artnames]

Sekien Books of Ghosts Ctd – 3

Quite surprisingly, Joly & Inada in their translation of Sekien’s Gazu hyakki yagyō 畫圖百鬼夜行 start by quoting sort of a mystery preface. It is signed by some Setchuan Riota and dated Anyei 6, that is 1777—a little unlikely for a book that was published the year before, in 1776. Consequently, this preface couldn’t have been part of the original 1776 publication, and first I guessed that it might possibly come from the Konjaku zoku hyakki 今昔続百鬼 of 1779, but that would still be an extremely early, but not impossible date for a preface. 

Yet, so far, I cannot identify any copy of that book with a Setchuan Riota preface. It is anyway quite difficult to locate copies of these Sekien books on the internet. Although ghosts and yokai and yurei seem to be extremely popular these days, Sekien’s books at least failed to attract the early French collectors which might likely help me finding one of these fantastic entries by Charles Vignier in some auction catalogue: Hayashi had a copy of the original 1779 edition (cat 1588); and for the Gazu Hyakki yagyō, Henri Vever had a copy of the 1776 edition (1948: 284, now Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, ex Gerhard Pulverer); and Haviland had a copy of the 1805 edition published by Maekawa Rokuemon and Maekawa Yahei (X: 513), and that’s it. And whereas Jack Hillier took this as an indication of their rarity, I would rather suggest that this kind of pictures did not suit the French taste.

The Yamawarawa, from Gazu hyakki yagyō Courtesy Smithsonian Institution, Washington

As for the Konjaku zoku hyakki, the Smithsonian Library in Washington has a copy of the 1805 reprint with two prefaces by Nibushian Dōjin and Sekien himself, Leiden has a copy of the 1805 edition with only the Sekien preface (RV-1-4459), and UCLA has just the vols 2 and 3, so no preface there. 

As for the Gazu Hyakki yagyō, I then finally also found a copy in the National Diet Library, Tokyo (辰 6-23) with, yes, the Setchuan Riota preface. And that is apparently of a much later ’1805’ edition, issued by Naganoya Kankichi 長野屋勘吉 of Tsu in Ise Province—which must be similar to the copy owned by Regamey. And so I could identify him as Setchūan Ryōta 雪中菴蓼太, seals Tōei and Yōkyō 印: 冬英, 揚喬, actually Setchūan III, a pen-name of Ōshima Ryōta 大島蓼太 1718-1787, and his preface is, indeed, dated Anei rokunen tori shōgatsu 安永六年酉正月 (Anei 6 year of the Cock, I/1777). And though this still doesn’t solve the mystery where it comes from, let’s cite it anyway for the moment, as it is such a nice piece of writing, hoping I will some day find where it really fits or belongs:

One day I went out for a walk passing Toyeizan (Temple Uyeno [Ueno Tōeizan 上野東叡山]) looking at the fallen flowers as I strolled through Negishi [根岸, a location favoured by writers and artists, such as Sakai Hōitsu, Kitao Shigemasa, and Kameda Bōsai, who all lived there] where the wisteria was just in bloom, passing through Higurashi [a village in the Nippori District] where the yamabuki [山吹 Japanese rose] was full open, and I paid a visit to the studio of Sekiyen. A boy told me that the artist was not in but would soon return, he offered me some tea and soon after I felt very sleepy, a few bees came out of their hives and made a great noise, and I thought of the old story in which someone used his sword to drive flies away. A man who drove flies away with his sword must have been in such circumstances, and I attacked the hives with my stick, with the help of the boy, and then the bees flew about the hives and suddenly changed into many small men, and amongst them there were Soshi (strong men [壮士 henchmen]) a fine woman, wise men and fools, a priest, etc, and they spoke human words; understood and acted as if they were large men, and I was looking at them, leaning forward to the writing desk, I was then awakened by my friend who had just returned. I was startled (bonyari [ぼんやり]) & I realized that there were a few bees flying about the house. I still had a feeling as if I had just returned from a far country (kwaikankoku [怪漢国 the Land of Suspicious-looking People]). My friend said: I have just illustrated Suikoden [Suiko gasenran 水滸画潜覧 published in 1777], and then when he showed me his drawings I realized that all the different illustrations were just the little personages of whom I had just dreamt.

I wonder whether I have also dreamt about all the illustrations in this book. Recently a publisher asked him for these and Sekiyen accepting the offer asked me to write the preface, having no reason to decline his request I take my pen.

Setchuan Riota, Anyei 6 [1777]

The Amikiri, Net-Cutter, from Gazu hyakki yagyō Courtesy Smithsonian Institution, Washington

Reading the text a few times, it then suddenly occurred to me that the original source might well have been the Suiko gasenran, which was published in 1777, altogether fine with the dating of the preface. It is a 3-volume publication of Izumoji Izuminojō 出雲寺和泉掾 and Enshūya Yashichi 遠州屋弥七, also the original publishers of Sekien’s ghost books, that might well have ended up likewise with Naganoya Kankichi in Setsu, who then mixed up the various components of Sekien’s books.

Again, it was not easy to locate a copy of this book, but the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has two copies, both not yet photographed, so I asked Sarah Thompson for help. She kindly promised to check the books next time she would have an opportunity to get to the collection. And something like a week later, there already was her reply: Hit, the preface is the one belonging to the Suiko gasenran, only found in the complete 3-volume copy (MFA 2009.3761 – the other copy, in MFA 2011.1444 is incomplete). Great, Sarah, thank you so much, now we know where the preface comes from. But when did Naganoya Kankichi make this mix-up? As Siebold was in the 1820s still able to get copies of the 1805 edition of both Zoku hyakki yagyō and Hyakki Tsurezurebukuro, it would seem that Naganoya was active even later than the 1820s—unless, of course, the Siebold copies were bought from some antiquarian bookshop, which he seems to have hardly done. 

Sekien Books of Ghosts Ctd – 2

The Japan Demonium book of Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt arrived in the mail this week, and I must say that it is quite an impressive and serious work, nicely produced by Dover of Mineola, New York, the one thing I possibly would have preferred is the plates at some more distance from the spine. As you may expect, I immediately checked the translation of the preface to the Gazu hyakki yagyō 畫圖百鬼夜行 that I discussed recently. Although their phrasing is quite different from that of Joly & Inada, the text is essentially quite similar, mostly that is. Let’s see.

A Tengu, or Heaven Dog Courtesy Smithsonian Institution, Washington

Joly & Inada’s ‘There are extraordinary changes in nature so that a stone may become a sparrow and a fude [brush] may change into a grasshopper’ reads a bit more wittier with Yoda & Alt ‘Let us speak of shape-shifting things, like stone-swallows or inkbrush-crickets,’ certainly as they moreover explain in a note that ‘Certain species of fossil shells with bird-like shapes were called “stone-swallows” in China and Japan. This is also a play on Sekien’s name [石燕, seki 石 is stone and en 燕 is swallow], which is written with the same two characters. Fudetsu-mushi (“inkbrush-bugs”) is an archaic, poetic term for crickets’. NB notes in parentheses are quoted from the original, those in square brackets are mine.

The next lines read, with Joly & Inada ’Toriyama Sekiyen has followed the avocation of a painter for many years and his brush changes also in many ways as he depicts almost everything that is known in nature,’ and with Yoda & Alt ‘The man who created this book, Toriyama Sekien, has enjoyed himself in the field of art for some years. His very brush shape-shifts; in fact there is nothing in all of creation it cannot evoke’.

Then, getting to the work it introduces, Joly & Inada have ‘He published Toriyama Biko 彦 some time ago as everyone knows, now he is going to publish another one after Hiakki Yagio of old pictures, changing and revising (them). It is divided into six volumes numbered In Yo Fu 風 U 雨 Kwai Mei’ – to wich I add that his Toriyama Biko 鳥山彦 of 1773 is also known as Sekien gafu 石燕画譜, as well as a translation of “Hiakki Yagio” 百鬼夜行 as Nightly Parade of a Hundred Ghosts. Joly & Inada add in a note that ‘In Yo Fu U Kwai Mei’ translates as ‘negative, positive, wind, rain, darkness and brightness.’ Yoda & Alt have here ‘He is already famed for his book Toriyamabiko. This time, he took the ancient Hyakki Yagyō scrolls as inspiration, to which he added his own inimitable touch. A publisher took note and prepared blocks for printing a book. Sekien split his work into six volumes: Yin, Yang, Wind, Rain, Darkness, and Light’. They add the following note to the Toriyamabiko:  Published in Spring of 1774 [sic], this influential art book’s name has been translated as “Toriyama’s Echoes” but also evokes the name of the yokai “yamabiko.” The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has made their copy available online [and I would absolutely advise you to have a look and marvel at that great four-page portrayal of a peacock (inv.no. 2009.3766)]. I would also add that the circumstance that the writer of this preface can cite the mottos for the next three volumes of the Konjaku – Zoku hyakki 今昔 続百鬼 of 1779 as well, suggests that Sekien had by 1775 already completed the first two instalments of his books of ghosts. This is also confirmed later on, as he states that ‘these three volumes of part one, zenpen 前編, are titled Gazu Hyakki yagyō‘.

The Kamaitachi, or Sickle Weasel Courtesy Smithsonian Institution, Washington

The preface is concluded, in the Joly & Inada translation ‘These books are entitled Yedzu Hiakki Yagio, he then asked me for a preface, & I could not refuse his request as we have been good friends for many years in poetry meetings, only I hesitated because of the maxim of Confucius (well bred people) dare not talk about Bakemono’ – as concerns the cited maxim, they add the note (Kunshi wa) Kwai Roku Ran Shin (wo katarazu) adding that this comes out of the Rongo [the Analects of Confucius 論語]. This would be (Kunshi wa 君子は people of virtue) Kai Ryoku Ran Shin 怪力亂神 (wo katarazu を語らず).

It is a pity that Yoda & Alt fail to make the association with the Rongo. Their last paragraph reads ‘These are the first three, entitled, naturally, Gazu Hyakki Yagyō (The Illustrated Demon Horde’s Night Parade). By and by he asked me to pen a Foreword. Sekien and I have long been traders of verse, so I could hardly refuse. But if you’re the sort who follows the conventional wisdom of shying away from talks of spirits and demons, you might find yourself wishing to avert your eyes’. Also their ‘traders of verse’ as a translation of 排歌の友にして, or ‘being friends in haikai poems’ is a bit surprising.

As for the writer of the preface, Joly & Inada have ‘Shio Shujin Rosan 紫陽主人老蠶,’ whereas Yoda & Alt have ‘Rōsan, master of Shiyō,’ and even found that this would be ‘A combination of pen names of the poet Maki Tōei (1721-1783), who also wrote under “Rōsan” (Old Silkworm) and “Shiyō-kan” (Hall of Violet Light), among others.’ This is really a great find – which I cannot check with the books I have here at hand–but I do hope that libraries will soon open again. Altogether, I would say that it is interesting to see how the two translations are at times complimentary, so I will continue to work on the Joly & Inada translations of the three other volumes of ghost books by Sekien.

Sekien Books of Ghosts

A dear friend is, like me, organizing her books – an exercise in realizing that we don’t live in eternity and must be realistic about what we can still accomplish, so get rid of most. She asked me if I would be interested in some titles and so she sent me four books for which I now have to find some place. Among these is a MS by Henry L. Joly and Inada Hogitaro, The Books of Goblins and Fantastic Dreams of Toriyama Sekiyen Toyofusa, dated Feb-Mch 1909, and apparently unpublished. 

We know Joly (1876-1920) as a professional electrical engineer and chemist with a great love for Japan, authoring his Legend in Japanese Art (1908), the just fabulous Red Cross Exhibition Catalogue (1915), his catalogue of the Behrens Collection (1913), and quite some works on signatures on tsuba and netsuke and on swords. Inada (died 1940) is probably best-known for the still invaluable Japanese Names and How to Read Them (1923) together with Koop, but also for his cataloguing of the prints exhibited at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris in the years 1909 to 1914.

They decided to make full translations, with occasional annotations, of the four books that Toriyama Sekien 鳥山石燕 (1712-1788) devoted to ghosts, goblins and apparitions, in their transcription the Yedzu Hiakki Yagio (1776), Hiakki Tsure Dzure Fukuro (1784), Konjaku Zoku Hiakki (1779), and Hiakki Yagio Shui (1781). According to a preliminary note “The following translations are taken from our copies, once in the library of Félix Regamey, who had numbered the pages consecutively from 1 to 260, including all prefaces and postfaces.”

The Nure Onna Courtesy Smithsonian Institution, Washington

Isn’t it funny to realize that Emile Guimet and Félix Regamey were together traveling Japan, Guimet searching images of Gods for what is now the Panthéon Bouddhique as an annex to the Musée Guimet in Paris, while Regamey was hunting for ghosts and goblins. Anyway, I thought it might be good to create some kind of sub-blog titled, for example, A Ghost A’day Keeps the Doctor Away — until I searched the internet to see whether ‘Sekien ghosts’ would give some result. And lo, there I found that Matt Alt and Hiroko Yoda already in 2017 published their Japan Pandemonium Illustrated. The Yokai Encyclopedias of Toriyama Sekien. So I ordered a copy that will arrive in a few weeks. Now, I decided to only publish the Joly/Inada translations of the prefaces and postfaces instead, hoping you may like them and possibly also get interested in the Alt & Yoda book. 

The first work in the series that Sekien composed, is the Hyakki yagyō 百鬼夜行 in 3 vols hanshibon, of 1776, also known as Gazu hyakki yagyō 畫圖百鬼夜行 and Ehon hyakki 繪本百鬼.

Vol 1 – 10 sh: 3 pp pref signed Tōto xxshi Shiyō Shujin Rōsan 東都□士紫陽主人老蠶 dated Anei kinoto hitsuji no fuyu  安永乙未冬 (Winter of 1775); 1 p contents; 1 p calligraphy In 陰 (the negative principle) by Rōsan 老蠶; 2 pp frontispiece: portraits of Jō and Uba as the ‘Tree Spirits’; 13 pp ills. Vol 2 – 12 sh: 1 p calligraphy 陽 (the positive principle); 1 p contents; 22 pp ills. Vol 3 – 10 sh: 1 p calligraphy 風 (Wind); 1 p contents; 15 pp ills; 2 pp postface signed Sekien Gessō no shita, s: Toriyama uji, Toyofusa 石燕月窓下 印:鳥山氏, 豊房, dated kinoto no hitsuji no aki kikugatsu 乙未乃秋菊月 (Autumn, IX/1775); 1 p colophon: Toriyama Sekien Toyofusa 鳥山石燕豊房/ assisted by his pupils 校合門人 Shikō 子興 (Eishōsai Chōki 栄松齋長喜)/ Gessha 月沙/ an announcement for a sequel to be cut soon 畫圖百鬼夜行後編 近刻/ block-cutter Machida Sukeemon 彫工 町田助右衛門/ Anei go hinoto saru no haru 安永五丙申春 (I/1776)/ publ Izumoji Izuminojō 御書房 出雲寺和泉掾/ Enshūya Yashichi 書林 遠州屋弥七, both in Edo.

The preface reads:

There are extraordinary changes in nature so that a stone may become a sparrow and a fude [brush] may change into a grasshopper. Toriyama Sekiyen has followed the avocation of a painter for many years and his brush changes also in many ways as he depicts almost everything that is known in nature.

He published Toriyama Biko 彦 some time ago [also known as Sekien gafu 石燕画譜, 1773] as everyone knows, now he is going to publish another one after Hiakki Yagio [Nightly Parade of a Hundred Ghosts] of old pictures, changing and revising (them). It is divided into six volumes numbered In Yo Fu 風 U 雨 Kwai Mei (negative, positive, wind, rain, darkness, brightness).

These books are entitled Yedzu Hiakki Yagio, he then asked me for a preface, & I could not refuse his request as we have been good friends for many years in poetry meetings, only I hesitated because of the maxim of Confucius (Kunshi wa) Kwai Roku Ran Shin (wo katarazu) (well bred people) dare not talk about Bakemono – (Rongo [the Analects of Confucius])

Written in the winter of Anyei, Sheep year [1775]

Shio Shujin Rosan 紫陽主人老蠶

Then there is a Postface (Batsu)

Poetry is the expression of feelings in words (voice) and painting is poetry without words, there is ”sight” but no voice but it gives all kinds of expressions and feelings as well to anyone who understands it.

As there were SanKaiKyō 山海經 in China and Hiakki Yagio by Motonobu [the painter Kanō Motonobu 狩野元信 1476-1559] in this country already and I dared to draw these pictures I was requested by a publisher to let him print them, and he was so earnest in his desire that I have decided to let them be transferred onto cherry wood blocks, in the hope that they may interest all children.

Sheep year, autumn, Kikuzuki (September [IX/1775]) under moonlight windows (1)

Sekiyen (Toriyama) Jibatsu (2) [石燕自跋]

1 – name of studio, Gessō no moto (ni oite) [月窓元]

2 – self postface 

This is a long one for the moment, but maybe it may incite you to want to know more and order the Alt & Yoda book. And I will soon come back to the prefaces to the three sequels that Sekien made.

Utagawa Toyokiyo – What went wrong?

Although I had seen the name of Utagawa Toyokiyo 歌川豊清, and even on various occasions, I never bothered to find out who he really was. But working occasionally on the collection of the Museum of East Asian Art at Cologne, I was intrigued by a quite impressive surimono print that he designed at the age of only 14. 

Utagawa Toyokiyo: Ichikawa Danjūrō VII as Fudō Myōō. New Year’s surimono, 1813
Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst, Cologne (R 63,3)

Toyokiyo was born in 1799, the son of Utagawa Toyohiro 歌川豊広 – as Yoshida Teruji’s still unsurpassed Ukiyoe jiten tells me. Studying at first with his father and also with Utagawa Toyokuni 歌川豊国, his early work is signed Kinzō 金蔵. As he just turns fourteen – others would then just start their professional training – Utagawa Toyoharu 歌川豊春 gives him the art-name of Toyokiyo. 

His earliest known work, signed Utagawa Kinzō, dates from 1810, the illustrations of a 3-volume novel by Tōzaian Nanboku 東西庵南北 (died 1827), also known as Rokkyokuen 六極園, a judge of the Gogawa poetry club. This novel, Fudehajime hinode matsu 筆始日出松 (NSN 388; KSM 7:116-2), is only one of eleven novels that Nanboku published that year. Of these, six are illustrated by Katsukawa Shunsen 勝川春扇, three by Utagawa Kunifusa 歌川国房, and one each by Utagawa Kunisada 歌川国貞 and Utagawa Toyokiyo. The collaboration is repeated two years later, in 1812, when Toyokiyo illustrates a 5-volume novel by Nanboku, the Onna kappō koi no shugyōsha 女合法恋修業者 (NSN 397; KSM 1:715-2). He then signs ‘Kinzō aratame Toyokiyo,’ thus announcing his change of name. 

In the same year, Toyokiyo is selected also for a much more prestigious job, to make the illustrations for Kyokutei Bakin’s 曲亭馬琴 (1767-1848) novel Itozakura shunchō kien 糸桜春蝶奇緑 (NSN 106; KSM 1:266-1) in ten volumes, which was apparently reissued in 1826 and 1854. 

Otherwise, in the medium of prints, we know of a series of Ōmi hakkei 近江八景 with the views in medallions, signed Utagawa Kinzō 哥川金蔵, all eight chūban 中判 prints known (MFA Boston Res. 49.130-137). He also makes a rather simple print of the Korean envoy that came to Edo in III/1811, titled Chōsenjin raichō gyōretsu no zu 朝鮮人来朝行列図 (The Procession of the Korean Envoy to Japan, a copy of which is preserved in the Tokyo Metropolitan Library). And then there is, also mentioned by Yoshida, his series of ōban 大判 prints titled Imayō bijin musume awase 今様美人娘合 (Todays Beautiful Women and Girls) published by Izumiya Ichibei. Yoshida has a small illustration of a woman holding a child playing with a toy, and dates the series to around 1812, which is indeed quite likely. Another print from this series, of a woman holding the cord of a wheeled book-cart (fuguruma 文車), in the Boston collection again (11.18022), offers a better opportunity to appreciate Toyokiyo’s talents. It is not only an extremely well-preserved print in quite stunning colours, it is also quite a powerful design. Indeed, for a boy just fourteen years old, this would herald a great future. 

Utagawa Toyokiyo: A woman with a book-cart, from the series Todays Beautiful Women and Girls, ca 1812
(Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

But before we come to speak of that, let’s focus on one more design, the surimono I mentioned earlier. Against the backdrop of a wide waterfall, we see the actor Ichikawa Danjūrō VII 七世市川団十郎 (1791-1859) as Fudō Myōō 不動明王, the God of the Waterfalls. To the right of him is Iwai Hanshirō V 五世岩井半四郎 (1776-1847) als Seitaka Dōji せいたか童子 holding a lotus, and to the left Matsumoto Kōshirō V 五世松本幸四郎 (1764-1838) as Kongara Dōji こんから童子 swaying a club. As Danjūrō impersonated the role of Fudō only once during the period of Toyokiyo’s activity, the play is easily identified as Yuki mo Yoshino kigoto no kaokagami 雪吉野恵木顔鏡, staged XI/1812 in the Morita Theatre 森田座 (KN 5:507). With two poems above, one by Mitaan Shikamaru 三田庵鹿丸, the other by Sakuragawa Jihinari 桜川慈悲成 (1760-1833), this was a perfect New Year’s card for the year 1813.

Naturally, we know that Jihinari was a good friend of both Toyohiro, the father of Toyokiyo, and of Danjūrō. Yet, it is quite amazing that they would offer the fourteen year old Toyokiyo the chance to design such a prestigious surimono in quite a large format. This confirms that he was widely – and justifiably – considered a promising talent. Then there is, discussed by William Green in a 1985 issue of the Ukiyo-e Society of America’s Impressions titled “Reflections and random notes on an uncommon surimono,” he informs us of his recent acquisition of a collaborative work of father and son, Toyohiro making a design of three karako playing with a kite, and Toyokiyo painting the kite with a large-head portrait of Danjūrō in Shibaraku. This would probably make a companion print to the Cologne surimono, as it would seem to be based on Danjūrō performing Shibaraku in his role of Shinozuka the Lord of Iga 篠塚伊賀守 in the same play in XI/1812. Somewhat later, most likely based on a performance of Shikisemono Soga datezome 例燭曽我伊達染 in I/1813 at the Morita Theatre 森田座 (KN 5:511), there are two quite similar surimono prints with a portrait of an actor as if it were a mounted scroll painting, one of Ichikawa Danjūrō VII 七世市川団十郎 as Soga no Gorō in Yanone 矢の根五郎 (his spear sharpening act, though not explicitly mentioned in Kabuki nenpyō)*, the other with Matsumoto Kōshirō IV 松本幸四郎 as Kudō Suketsune 工藤祐經. Both prints have three poems, the last ones again by Sakuragawa Jihinari. And then, until his untimely death in 1820 at the age of 22, there is no more trace of any activity, no book illustrations, no more prints, no more surimono, nothing.

What happened? Bakin’s recollections in his Kinsei mono no hon 近世物之本 make no mention of Toyokiyo. The Ukiyoe ruikō 浮世絵類考 confirms that he was the son of Toyohiro and initially trained by both his father and Toyokuni. Another version states that he ‘made many prints and novels, and one or two yomihon’ 錦繪草双子等多く読本一二部あり. And the Watanabe version of the Ruikō mentions a New Year’s surimono of Danjūrō in Shitennō 四天王 for 1804, maybe a bit unlikely for a boy six years old. Indeed, this would more likely be after the performance of XI/1810 at the Ichimura Theatre 市村座 with Danjūrō playing Kidōmaru 鬼同丸. Would love to see it, would still be signed Utagawa Kinzō. Or would it be that his father Toyohiro figured that it was about time that he should learn some craft, as was normal practice for Japanese boys at the time. Ukiyo, the Floating World, is what we can see through pink glasses, La Vie en Rose, but there is also a very harsh reality … erst kommt das Fressen

* In the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg (S2012774.1, from the collection of my good old friend Gerhard Schack)

Hokusai’s Self-portrait and his Sōhitsu Gafu

We like mysteries, don’t we? Today we go for this fabulous Hokusai self-portrait as a drawing at the end of a letter to … some unidentified publisher. It is signed Hachiemon 八右衛門 with the seal Manji 卍, adding his age as 83 years old 八十三歳, so we know this must date from 1842. Even when we have a translation of the text of the letter – or what remains of the letter – it just stops there. Everybody seems to love the mystery of the addressee – much like what the charm of Beethovens letter to ‘die unsterbliche Geliebte’ is, though there have at least been many speculations. But nobody (as far as I am aware) ever made an attempt to identify the publisher to whom this letter was sent.* 

Hokusai Self-portrait aged 83 years National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden

But it cannot really be that difficult, as the letter reads:

Well then, the sketches in this volume were made when I was about forty-one or forty-two; moreover, a number of them duplicates one another. After all these years some of them might be better worked out. The remainder, which you may smile about, should be regarded as immature work from the past.**

There is only one volume of various sketches made into a book and dating from post 1842, thus meeting all the requirements. That is the Manji-ō sōhitsu gafu『卍翁艸筆畫譜』published by Kikuya Kōsaburō 菊屋幸三郎 of Edo. There is no other possible contender, no mistake, it is as simple as that. The Sōhitsu gafu has 17 single and 14 double-page illustrations of various subjects, a perfect mixture for an ‘album of paintings’ as we should understand the common Japanese concept of the ‘gafu’ in the title. 

Looking at the plates raises two questions. One concerns the date of the drawings Hokusai mentions. He maintains that these would date from when he was forty-one or two, which would be in Kyōwa, 1800 or 1801, which I cannot believe. They rather seem to date from Bunka, the late 1810s, when he worked on the final volumes of the Hokusai manga, the Hokusai gashiki and the Hokusai soga – leftovers maybe? Another question concerns the fire of 1839 when he was living at Daruma Yokochō 達磨横町 in Azumabashi itchōme, Sumidaku 墨田区吾妻橋一丁目 when he could just grasp his brushes and get safely out of his studio himself, but would loose all his sketches and drawings in the fire, as the Katsushika Hokusai den (上64b-65b) informs us and which mostly came to us through De Goncourt (p. 242). If this were altogether correct and reliable, it seems quite impossible that Hokusai would three years later be sending some thirty plus drawings dating from ‘when I was about forty-one or forty-two.’

The colophon

Let us now have a closer look at the album that Kikuya Kōsaburō made out of the sketches that Hokusai sent him together with this letter, the Manji-ō sōhitsu gafu. The illustrations are, quite remarkably, just in line with supporting accents in grey, something quite unprecedented, and of a very different nature from what we see in the Hundred Views of Fuji 富嶽百景 albums. According to the colophon, the album was published in Tenpō 14, 1843, year of the Hare, first month, lucky day of the Dragon (Tenpō jūyonsai mizunoto u shoshun kichi tatsu hasshi 天保十四歳癸卯初春吉辰發市). And we find the date of 1843 duly in all literature, as if it shouldn’t puzzle us to find a preface to the volume signed by Tōjō Kindai 1795-1878, the father of Kikuya, signed ‘composed by the Old Kindai, father of the publisher Kōshi, with seal: Kōshizō (Kindai rōjin Tōjō Kōshizō no chichi sen, s: Kōshizō 琴臺老人東條耕子藏父撰 印: 耕子藏) that is surprisingly dated Tenpō, Spring of the year of the Dragon, 1832 (Tenpō mizunoe tatsu no haru 天保壬辰之春) – with the combination mizunoe tatsu unmistakably indicating the year 1832. However, as he writes that the volume was given the title of Album of Paintings with a Free Brush by the Old Manji, this must be a mistake, as Hokusai only announced his change of name to Manji in 1834. The mistake must be in the cyclical date, writing mizunoe tatsu instead of kinoe tatsu 甲辰, which gives 1844. 

What happened is this: Kikuya had the drawings that Hokusai sent him worked out and all the blocks had been cut by Suzuki Eijirō (chōkoku 鈴木榮次郞彫刻), even the colophon page with the date of Tenpō 14, First month of 1843. But we are also in the heydays of the Tenpō Reforms 天保の改革 promulgated on 22/V/1841. And from XII/1838 it had been forbidden to display and sell picture books – and the Manji-ō sōhitsu gafu is a picture book – and erotic works in the front of the shop, yes these were difficult times. Hoping to be on the safe side with his plates printed in line and just with grey tones, he then still thought it wiser to wait for better times, maybe next year, and so in the end he dared publish the book in the First month of 1844, as indicated in the preface. A few years later, as the Tenpō Reforms became less strict, around 1847, he also took the risk to bring out a version in colours, under the title Hokusai manga Sōhitsu no bu 北斎漫畫草筆之部.

* I identified the addressee before, but in more obscure locations.

**I was told that Georg Baselitz was inspired to make a series of quite impressive drawings based on the portrait and the translation that he saw in my 1991 Royal Academy exhibition catalogue – he donated ten of these to the British Museum and another ten to the Met, but forgot to give me one.

When Hokusai’s Mount Fuji Became Second to None

As the advert for the Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji appeared in the 1st Month of 1831 in Part 12 of Ryūtei Tanehiko’s 柳亭種彦 (1783-1842) Shōhon jitate『正本製』, it was indicated that what we now usually read as Fugaku 富嶽 should be read as ‘Fuji.’ It is now difficult to know whether this was meant to help the public that might have some problem with the reading of the less common character 嶽, or whether it was, indeed, Hokusai’s or the publisher’s idea that we should read the series-title 富嶽三十六景 as Fuji sanjūrokkei.

The problem – or the question at least – comes up again in 1834 when the first part of his One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji is published, where we similarly, and correctly, usually transcribe the title 富嶽百景 as Fugaku hyakkei. That this is correct can be inferred from the small leaflet that the publishers issued in the Autumn of 1833, announcing the forthcoming album 冨嶽百景 with the indication in furigana that this should be read as ふがくひやくけい, Fugaku hyakkei that is, by ’the Old Man Iitsu formerly Hokusai’ 前北斎為一老翁 to be transcribed as saki no Hokusai Iitsu rōō

The leaflet announcing the forthcoming publication of the Fugaku hyakkei, handed to potential buyers in late 1833

It cannot be doubted that Ryūtei Tanehiko in his preface to the Fugaku hyakkei Part 1 knew that Hokusai used the characters 不二, to be read as Fuji, but literally meaning ’not’ and ‘two,’ or ‘second to none,’ often also translated as ‘peerless,’ for each of the titles of his plates. Indeed, also Tanehiko refers to the mountain as Second to None.

Interestingly, Hokusai used this spelling of the mountain’s name also in the prints in the final instalment of his Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji series – the ten prints that all have a line-block printed in black from the start. These are Minobugawa ura Fuji 身延川裏不二; Tōkaidō Shinagawa Atagoyama no Fuji 東海道品川御殿山ノ不二; Senju kagai yori chōbō no Fuji 従千住花街眺望ノ不二; and Tōkaidō Kanaya no Fuji 東海道金谷ノ不二 . It would even seem that these five prints were the last five designs that he made, not only introducing the spelling of Fuji as Second to None, as in the Fugaku hyakkei volumes, but also indicating for the first time in the titles of the series, that it was the ‘Second-to-None Mountain’ seen from here, or seen there. Until then, the mountain was not mentioned in any of the preceding fourty-one print titles.

This also corroborates that the last instalment of the Fuji series coincides with Hokusai working on his One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji albums, in 1833 or 1834.