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IKUTA Yoshiharu, Japanese, (1828–1888)
Yokohama-e: The Circus, 1864
Ink on Paper
14 1/2 in. x 9 3/4 in. (36.83 cm x 24.77 cm)


Object Type: Print
Technique: Wood-block Printing
Credit Line: Purchased with funds from the Aoki Endowment for Japanese Arts and Cultures
Accession Number: 2007.1.137


Object Description
In 1854, the American delegation and the Japanese shogunate government signed the Treaty of Kanagawa, and in 1858, England, France, Russia and the Netherlands had concluded a treaty with Japan to promote commercial ties. Those four European nations and the US were referred to as the five Treaty Nations.

Before the Treaty of Kanagawa the Japanese population had never seen foreigners before. A new art genre of ukiyo-e (Japanese woodblock prints) were designed to satisfy the curiosity towards the different way of life of these strange-looking newcomers and their technological achievements. Iron black ships, horse-drawn carriages, locomotives, steam-vessels or hot air balloons had been unknown in Japan.

During the first years the foreigners were restricted to the area around the harbor of Yokohama. Thereafter these prints are called Yokohama prints or Yokohama-e (e means picture in Japanese).

Yokohama prints can be grouped after the subjects they display. There are maps, ships, ceremonies and important events and portraits of foreigners. Portraits usually show a couple or the whole family with children, pets and servants are frequent among Yokohama prints. It can be assumed that many of these portraits were commissioned by foreign diplomats.

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