Yoshu Chikanobu


An Array of Auspicious Customs of Eastern Japan: Ceremonial Attire
(Azuma fuzoku fukuzukushi: Tairei fuku)

signed Yoshu Chikanobu hitsu at lower right, with publisher's seal of Takekawa Unokichi dated Meiji nijunen (Meiji 22 [1889])

oban tate-e 14 by 9 1/2 in., 35.5 by 24.2 cm

This series presents a collection of words that sound like the word fuku, which has several meanings, including 'auspicious.' In this case, the kanji for tairei fuku (written here in Romanji as TAIREI HUKU) means ceremonial clothing, interestingly represented by both traditional Japanese courtly dress worn by the three ladies and the foreign livery worn by the male figure. The well-appointed Western-style interior features formal d├ęcor with a gilt chandelier with glass globes, paneled walls with crown molding, curtained glass windows, and floor inlaid with a geometric pattern.

The gentleman with close-cropped hair and moustache wears white long pants and a tailcoat that is brocaded with the Emperor's paulownia crest, indicative of the livery associated with the Emperor's court. He gestures towards one of the ladies who holds a cockaded hat to complete his ensemble, while another approaches with a European-style saber sword. The lavish brocade on the chest identifies his rank as that of an Imperial appointee (chokuninkan). The details of the uniforms for various rankings at court were established in 1872 in advance of the important Iwakura Mission to Europe and the United States from 1872-1873. Chikanobu may have referred to an earlier photograph for this composition before 1877 when the standard pant color was changed from white to black following the advice of Otto von Bismarck who noted when the mission visited Germany that white pants were customarily only worn on speical occaisons. For example, the attire and appearance of the figure in this print is similar to a photograph of the statesman Okubo Toshimichi (1830-1878) related to his time with the Iwakura Mission.

Bruce A. Coats, Chikanobu_ Modernity and Nostalgia in Japanese Prints, Scripps College, 2006, p. 142, pl. 162
Yoshu Chikanobu Memorial Exhibition, Hiraki Ukiyo-e Foundation, 2012, p. 42, no. 46
Metropolitan Museum of Art, accession no. JP3198
(inv. no. 10-5320)

price: $650

Yoshu Chikanobu

Okubo Toshimichi (1830-1878)


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