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Japanese Warrior Prints

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Japanese Warrior Prints

  1. 1. Books and Catalogues in Briefnames and therefore ignores the grass rootscomplexity of an incredible art scene stuffedwith artists both meek and mighty. peter davies Artist and author, BristolJAPANESE WARRIOR PRINTS1646–1905james king and yuriko iwakiriHotei Publishing, Leiden & Boston, 2007 $155.00isbn 978 9074822 848T his is the first publication to appear in English that is devoted to musha-e or images of warriors. Such imageswere produced from the early history ofwoodblock prints in the seventeenthcentury, first in book form, and later asindependent prints. They were initially monochrome orhand-coloured, then with one or two-colours added, but after the mid-eighteenthcentury, full-colour prints were the norm. Stories of warriors had been compiledsince the tenth century, and had suppliedmaterial for puppet plays, kabuki, printsapplied to votive tablets offered at Shintoshrines and Buddhist temples, and subse-quently, material for illustrated books. Themarket for such books grew rapidly in theseventeenth century, and was centred first onthe Kyoto/Osaka area, and later Edo. Theirtopics (ukiyo-e or pictures of the ‘floatingworld’) were largely from what might beloosely called the world of entertainment. Their main customers were from themerchant class, who were disdained by thewarrior class, the samurai. Full-colourprinting, introduced from the 1760s, was (1797–1861) and his successors enjoyed Utagawa Kunisada (1786 --1865) Zhuang Shiapplied to pictures of warriors as well as enormous success with warrior prints. Xinchi Slaying aTiger in the Mountains (Soshi Shinki Sankan ni tora o utsu) from the series ‘Militaryactors and courtesans, although the for- The choice of stories of battles from Tales of the Han and Chu’ (‘Kanso gundan’),mer remained a minority genre until the earlier centuries was necessary, as the c. 1828--30. From Japanese Warrior Prints 1646--1905 byJames King andYuriko Iwakiri.early nineteenth century. Tokugawa shoguns forbade the depiction The Edo period (1603–1868) marked a of any events that had taken place afterlengthy period of peace for Japan under the 1592. Indeed, the ‘Kansei Reforms’ forbade graphy, brought the use of woodblock printsauthoritarian rule of the Tokugawa shoguns. mention of any members of the Tokugawa to an end by the early twentieth century.The samurai were now redundant, although family, the reporting of current events, the The main part of the book is a detailedmany continued to receive pensions from publication of calendars, and ‘the dissemi- catalogue of some 220 prints, which aretheir feudal lords (daimyo) and representa- ¯ nation of unorthodox philosophies’. reproduced in full colour to an excellenttions of them steadily grew in popularity. In 1868 the shogunate was abolished standard, and accompanied by a detailed The catalyst for the changes seems to (although censorship of prints continued explanation of the subject matter of eachhave been the illustrations made by until 1875) and the modernisation of print, invaluable to the average WesternHokusai (1760–1849) for the ‘reading Japan was decreed. The government encour- reader. Almost half of these come from thebooks’ such as Tales of the Water Margin – aged the production of patriotic images to collection of one of the authors (Jamesan illustrated version of a form of the be displayed in homes, but warrior prints King); the others come from museumsRobin Hood stories. The fact that they were were now expected to depict contemporary and collections in Japan, the USA, andabout the vaguely subversive topic of bands Japanese military triumphs, usually at the Europe. There is enormous variety of styleof outlaws increased their popularity with expense of the Chinese. Newer and faster and use of colour, but to this reader, atthe public. Following him, Kuniyoshi techniques of reproduction, such as photo- least, there seems to be little discrepancyr 2009 the authors. journal compilation r 2009 bpl/aah volume 16 issue 1 february 2009 The Art Book 79
  2. 2. Books and Catalogues in Briefin quality between private and public galleries were completed, following a four- refers to as the obscurity and the exaltationcollections. The virtuosity shown by some year renovation project. The contributors of ancient sculpture. In the essays thatof the creators of what were essentially are sculpture specialists working in acade- follow, sculpture emerges in its variousvery cheap works of art is astonishing, and mia and museums, with essays by profes- guises, media and locations – in reliefs,their low cost is what made their posses- sors of art history in the United States and ivories (such as the extraordinary ivory ofsion in private hands possible. Europe and senior curators from major a Bolognese dog made before 1625), Although the majority date from the international institutions, including the ‘in architectural sculptures and furniture –nineteenth century heyday of musha-e there house’ team at the National Gallery of Art, displayed and dispersed in royal and papalare a significant number (45) from the the Metropolitan Museum and the Direttore collections, in France, Spain, Britain, Italyseventeenth and eighteenth centuries. of the Galleria Borghese in Rome. and Dalmatia. The collectors representedThese prints are one of the main sources What emerges from the volume is the include Erasmus of Rotterdam, the Medici,of our knowledge of samurai arms and buoyancy of sculpture studies from the the Eighth Earl of Pembroke and Sirarmour, or at least what Edo period Japan fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries in Francis Dashwood. The focus shifts fromthought they should have been. Since Europe under the rubric of the history of royal and elite European collectors, towriters of the eighteenth century, such as collecting. What is less clear is how its sculptors who belonged to institutionsSakakibara Kozan, were urging the use of ¯ editors understand collecting in relation to such as the Accademia di San Luca, andmedieval models upon contemporary ar- patronage and display; the processes of to sculptors as collectors as well as makersmourers, this is perhaps not the failing that making and the vagaries of the market. of sculpture. One of the most impressiveit might seem. So this book may be The papers only hang together as a essays, by Frits Scholten, looks at theenthusiastically recommended to students coherent collection of essays in the very inventory of the sculptor Johan Larson ofof Japanese arms and armour as well to loosest sense. Alison Luchs’ discussion of The Hague, which lists about 275 sculp-those impressed by Japanese art in general. the Companions of Diana for Marly by Jean- tures and models in his mid-seventeenth- alan williams Louis Lemoyne (dated 1724) is directly century workshop for the production of The Wallace Collection concerned with a sculpture in the National lead and plaster casts. Later, Olga Raggio Gallery collection at Washington and focuses on Clement XI’s museum of modelliCOLLECTING SCULPTURE IN follows nicely an account of the Jardin in the Vatican Palace, whose full-scaleEARLY MODERN EUROPE Haut at Marly. Most of the contributions models by Bernini and Rinaldi for the are lengthy and learned, based on the angels of the altar of the Blessed Sacra-n penny and e d schmidt (eds) current researches of the contributors, ment in St. Peter’s are modelled in clayNational Gallery of Art, Washington, Center for with appendices and substantial foot- mixed with straw over an iron armatureAdvanced Study in the Visual Arts 70, SymposiumPapers XLVII 2008 d40.00 $75.00 notes. All the essays draw on visual and held by a wooden support. Penny’s final512pp. Fully illustrated archival evidence related to their projects; essay, on ‘The evolution of the plinth,isbn 9780300121605 those about the display of sculptures in the pedestal and socle’, could provide the ˆ Chateau of Marly, for instance, reproduce starting point for another of the National explanatory views, plans and maps. Gallery’s Studies in the History of Art, which isT his volume of 20 essays and an introduction represents the pub- In an opening essay, Salvatore Settis now in its forty-first year with 77 volumes lished proceedings of a symposium surveys the antecedents for Renaissance already published or forthcoming.held in Washington in 2003, the year after sculpture collecting, focusing on the viccy coltmanthe National Gallery of Art’s new sculpture prolonged transition between what he University of Edinburgh/CASVAInformation for subscribers: The Art Book is published in four issues per year. Subscription prices for 2009 are: Premium Institutional:d118(UK)h150(Europe), US$263(The Americas), $308(Rest of World); Personal: d34(UK)h50(Europe, Euro zone), $57(The Americas), d34(Rest of World).Prices are exclusive of tax. Australian GST, Canadian GSTand European VAT will be applied at the appropriate rates. 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