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Royalty and Rulers

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Chikanobu Yoshu, Japanese, (1838–1912)
Emperor, Empress and Dignitaries at the Ceremony for the Promulgation of the Co, 1889
Ink on Paper
13 5/8 in. x 28 in. (34.61 cm x 71.12 cm)

Object Type: print
Technique: Wood-block Printing
Period: Meiji (Japan, 1869-1912)
Credit Line: Purchased with funds from the Aoki Endowment for Japanese Arts and Cultures
Accession Number: 2003.1.63

Alternate Title: Teikoku banzai: Kenpo happu ryakuen
Full Title: Emperor, Empress and Dignitaries at the Ceremony for the Promulgation of the Constitution

Three text banners are printed on the far right panel.

Colored ink woodblock triptych on off-white paper.

Object Description
The production and promulgation of the Constitution was a series of important political and cultural events in the 1880's that were widely illustrated by artists. On the morning of 11 February 1889 the emperor formally issued the Constitution in the Throne Room of the newly constructed Tokyo Imperial Palace, built on the former site of the shogun's castle. The auspicious ceremony was attended by the empress and her attendants, by Japanese peers, military officers and high ranking bureaucrats and by foreign ambassadors (lower right). The artist Chikanobu did not witness the event but had a vivid imagination and access to published reports with which to create an appropriate scene.

Numerous versions of this moment by many different print designers were published in 1889-91, some showing an enclosed chamber while others having views from the Throne Room into nearby palace gardens. From descriptions and photographs of the building, Chikanobu's version is not very accurate. The wooden parquet floors appear more like a colored checkerboard, and the glass paneled doors leading to the verandah have been eliminated. Likewise, he depicts the empress in an austere black gown with bonnet, when, in fact, she wore a pink silk dress with a diamond necklace and tiara. However, his overall composition does capture a sense of the event's importance. While Chikanobu depicts a generalized collection of people gathered to each side of the podium to witness the promulgation, other artists attempted to portray particular people in the government, with specific facial features and often with accompanying labels.

Julia Meech-Pekarik, The World of the Meiji Print: Impressions of a New Civilization, (Weatherhill, New York, 1986). pp.170-178.

Louise E. Virgin, Japan at the Dawn of the Modern Age: Woodblock Prints of the Meiji Era, 1868-1912 (MFA Publications, Boston, 2001). pp. 58-60.

For more information, please refer to the Chikanobu exhibition catalogue.

Teikoku Banzai.

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