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PRICE : 1 600 €
CONDITION : Excellent
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Large Japanese woodblock prints (mokuhan or hanga in Japanese) composed of 3 parts (9 sheets in total) : Meiji Emperor entering Tokyo. Signature of Yoshitoshi and his disciple Nenkei, stamp of the publisher Maruya Jinpachi. Circa 1869.
Our print represents one of the major events in the history of modern Japan - its entry into the modern world (the Meiji era) and the end of feudalism (the Edo era). This period symbolizes the end of the policy of voluntary isolation called Sakoku and the beginning of a policy of modernizing Japan. The Meiji era was characterized by a shift from the Feudal system (government under the authority of the Shogun and the great families - the daimios) towards a Western-style industrial system under the authority of the Emperor. By this organized and voluntary entry of Japan into the industrial era, it was Japan main objective to modernize as quickly as possible, in order to treat on an equal footing with the Westerners to avoid falling under their domination (as was the case for China during the same period). This is why the archipelago is one of the rare countries in Asia to have never been "colonized" by any other country.
Thus our print shows the procession of the young Emperor Mutshuhito entering Tokyo in September 1869 to take possession of his new capital (after having left the old imperial capital of Kyoto). All the 9 sheets are signed of Yoshitoshi and indicate the name and location of Tokyo-fu, which is the new name of the new capital replacing the old name of Edo. The use of the new name of the city is a deliberate and assumed political statement to indicate that we are entering a new imperial era
The right-hand three panels show the imperial procession on Tokyo's Nakabashi-dori (literally, "between the two bridges boulevard"). This street runs between Kyobashi Bridge (see below) and the more famous Nihonbashi Bridge (also featured in many prints). There is also a bit of a political statement in having a view of Edo Castle, the former home of the Tokugawa Shogun, in the background. The people in this part are a mix of retainers, high-ranking officials in traditional dress, and some soldiers in new western dress.
The middle three panels (known as Part 2 in Japanese) show the emperor's palanquin crossing the Kyobashi Bridge. Note the man carrying the flag in front; it shows the imperial crest--a stylized chrysanthemum. The two palanquins in front of the emperor would be the consorts and court ladies. Most of the people in this part of the procession are courtiers. You can that tell that by the style of their hats and dress. Of course, neither the emperor or his consorts can be see by their subjects, thus the curtains completely cover the palanquins.
Part 3 shows representatives of the new Meiji army marching along the Ginza-dori (yes, the same Ginza Boulevard with the luxury shops today)- again a political statement here indicating the new, "united" Japan. The banner in front reads "Military Staff". Here, too, the imperial flags in the middle of the procession declare the army's loyalty to the emperor.
Many thanks to Robin Masson and Tatsushi Nakayabu for their invaluable help that allowed us to write this notice.
The print is in excellent condition, the colors are fresh, the paper sheets are intact and without tearing. The piece is presented in a 1960s frame with some accidents, which deserves to be replaced by a larger lacquered molding.
Provenance, large Lorraine collection, in the family since the 19th century.