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Kimbei Kusakabe, Japanese, (1841–1934)
Kimbei Studios, Japanese
Chrysanthemums, c. 1890
Photographic materials and colors on paper
8 1/4 x 10 1/4 in. (21 x 26 cm)

Object Type: Photography
Technique: Photography
Period: Meiji (Japan, 1869-1912)
Credit Line: Purchase, Scripps Collectors' Circle
Accession Number: 2013.3.48

This work is one of 50 hand-colored albumen prints of protraits and scenes of Japanese life.

Content : Gilt-edge leaves are tabbed into album with lacquer boards and leather spine, with the title, "Japan," in gold. Front cover has hand-painted and inlaid scene of a man pulling a rickshaw in which a woman with an umbrella is seated. Both wear traditional garb. Inlays are of ivory. Back cover is painted with the images of a dragonfly, cricket, praying mantis, butterfly and another winged insect, possibly a bee. End papers and doublure are of imitation moire.

Content : Views are numbered with Arabic numerals in negative.

In the lower right hand corner, the number 213 appears with the title.

hand-colored albumen print

Object Description
On facing pages in this album, "Fencing" depicts two men practicing martial arts in an outdoor setting and "Chrysanthemums" shows a statue of a samurai warrior made with blooming plants. The juxtaposition provides a humorous parallel. The samurai class that had dominated Japanese politics and society for centuries had been replaced in the 1870s by civilian government bureaucrats who were modernizing Japan to compete with European and American models. That hereditary profession of warriors was now obsolete and could be publicly mocked. But learning martial arts was still valued in Japan, especially in the 1890s, when nostalgia for the past resulted in a renewed interest in traditional skills and arts. Whether Kimbei’s studio made the juxtaposition when assembling the album or the foreign customer deliberately chose the sequence of images cannot be determined, but the irony is evident. Bruce A. Coats Professor of Art History and Humanities

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