Yokohama Boomtown Image Gallery / Y0141_AmericanParty
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Gaikoku jinbutsu:Dontoku no zu

Title: Picture of People of the Five Nations: A Sunday
Artist: Yoshitora (fl. ca. 1850-80)
Format: Woodblock print
Medium: Ink and color on paper
Dimensions: triptych: 34.9 x72.9 cm (13 3/4 x28 11/16 in.)
Source: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

A lively party in a large mercantile firm is the subject of one of Sadahide's most famous Yokohama prints. The stripes of an American flag in the upper left corner identifies the establishment as American. Making effective use of the L-shaped configuration of the open veranda, Sadahide highlights a row of figures in large scale in the foreground while a dinner party occupies the middle ground. The large number of bottles on the dining table accurately reflects the prominent role of alcoholic beverages in early Yokohama. Ample quantities of wines and spirits are among the listed cargo imported there 2,783 cases from British ships alone in 1863. One of the dinner guests demonstrates the use of Western eating utensils by raising a morsel of food held on the tines of a fork. A framed picture of a Western ship sailing by Mount Fuji hangs overhead. Among the foreground figures are a professional entertainer, or geisha, and Japanese courtesans who mingle with the Americans. At the far left an American child playfully tugs at the queue of a Chinese servant who is descending the stairs. The kimono worn by the courtesan at the far right, an outer robe with bold, horizontal blue stripes and tie-dyed underrobes with white dots against a red background, incorporates patterns probably based on the American flag but with the colors reversed. She observes a musical performance by an American woman who plays an instrument of the violin family; and beside her a geisha playing a samisen held across her lap. Instead of supporting the instrument in the appropriate position under the chin or upright, the American holds it in the position of a samisen and plays it with a samisen plectrum rather than a bow. Despite Sadahide's extensive knowledge of Western customs and material culture, he was apparently unaware of the technique of playing Western stringed instruments. Overhead is a large framed picture of an exotic subject: men riding camels. Sadahide's faithful rendering of the unfamiliar image of camels and their riders suggests that he had seen either a Western painting brought to Yokohama by an early resident, or one of the more widely disseminated illustrations in Western newspapers or magazines. [Adapted from Ann Yonemura, Yokohama: Prints from Nineteenth-Century Japan]

Visualizing Cultures image number: Y0141

Keywords: Westerners, entertainment, Americans, Chinese, courtesans, geisha, musical instruments, ships, Yokohama, Yokohama Harbor, flags, animals (exotic), alcohol, Mount Fuji, servants, racial intermingling of Japanese and foreigners

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