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Utagawa Sadahide, European Toy Stall, a woodblock print

Utagawa Sadahide, European Toy Stall, a woodblock print


Purchased with the assistance of The British Museum Friends

Asia JA 1998.2-18.019

    Utagawa Sadahide, European Toy Stall, a woodblock print

    Edo period, AD 1860

    Published by Maruya Tokuzō

    A toy-stall has been decked out with a display of toys - dolls, stick horses, a toy axe, horns, and drums. The stall-holder is showing off a doll to a young girl and she turns excitedly to her mother, who has obviously agreed to the purchase. The scene is one of many produced during the Edo period depicting the appearance and customs of foreigners. From 1858, foreigners were allowed to reside in Yokohama and other designated treaty ports, and there was much curiosity about their ways.

    Sadahide (1807-73) was a prolific but minor printmaker, who had trained under Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1864). He produced theatrical prints, contemporary scenes, and pictures of foreigners, such as this one. He was one of eleven Japanese print artists who showed their works at the Paris Exposition of 1866, for which he received the Légion d'Honneur. Sadahide's works incorporated the Western technique of shading, seen here on the barrel and the folds of the clothing.

    The composition is made to appear as an unfurled scroll. In the cartouche is written 'Dōban e-jō saishiki' ('Hand-coloured copperplate print'), in emulation of the European prints being imported at the time. The inscription beneath reads 'Go'untei Sadahide ga' ('Picture by Go'untei Sadahide'). The print was formerly in the Jack and Mary Hillier collection of Japanese prints featuring toys that was recently acquired by The British Museum.


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