Yokohama Boomtown Image Gallery / Y0101_MotherChild
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Gaikokujin kodomo chōai no zu

Title: Foreigner Embracing a Child
Artist: Yoshikazu (fl. ca. 1850-70)
Format: Woodblock print
Medium: Ink and color on paper
Dimensions: 36.8 x25.3 cm (14 1/2 x9 5/16 in.)
Source: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Women and children are a common subject of Japanese genre painting and popular prints created during the Edo period (1600-1868); the theme continues in Yokohama prints that depict foreigners' customs. Western visitors to Japan at the time of Yokohama's opening noticed the affectionate regard that Japanese parents held for their children. Sir Rutherford Alcock (1809-1897), the British minister, observed: It is a very common sight, in the streets and shops of Yeddo [Edo],to see a little nude Cupid in the arms of a stalwart-looking father …who walks about with his small burthen, evidently handling it with all the gentleness and dexterity of a practised hand. As for many of his other prints, the artist Yoshikazu has probably depended upon Western engravings as models for his picture. A young boy sits barefoot on the floor while his mother carries an infant in the crook of her arm rather than on her back, which is the Japanese practice. The unfamiliar Japanese custom caused Alcock to worry that a "dislocation of the neck must inevitably be the result," though he finally concluded that the babies did not seem to mind. [Adapted from Ann Yonemura, Yokohama: Prints from Nineteenth-Century Japan]

Visualizing Cultures image number: Y0101

Keywords: Westerners, foreign children, interior, Sir Rutherford Alcock, art influences form the West

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