Farsari’s Dai Butsu (Visual Literacy of Buddhism)

 

Adolfo Farsari (1841-1898), an Italian adventurer who ended up fighting for the North during the American Civil War, settled in the port city of Yokohama in the 1870’s and taught himself photography. By the early 1880’s, the Western dominance of the Yokohama tourist photography industry had waned, but Farsari would still become a commercial success. In 1885, he acquired the negative and stocks of the famed Stillfried and Anderson firm and opened up his own professional photography studio, named A. Farsari & Co., on the main street in the bustling port. Like his competitors, he sold photographs and pre-made albums to wealthy “globetrotters” who sought to return home with photographs of famous sites. Photography no longer needed the technical skill it once required, mostly because of the transition to the easier dry-plate process, and consequently the photograph started to transition from a fine piece of art to a commodified object.[1] Farsari’s early successes were almost robbed of him completely, as a devasting fire ravaged Yokohama just a year after he opened his business, subsequently destroying his studio and collection of negatives. Unfortunately, not only were all of Farsari’s negatives destroyed, but also those recently acquired of Stillfried and Anderson, as well those of the pioneering photographer Felice Beato, who was bought out by Stillfried and Anderson in 1877. A year after the fire, in 1887, Farsari reopened his studio with a stock of around 1,000 new images.

Figure 1

apkd004af

  • Title/Caption: Japan, A. Farsari & Co., Yokohama [photographic frontispiece]
  • Year: c. 1887
  • Photographer: Adolfo Farsari (1841-1898)
  • Medium: albumen silver print, sepia tinted
  • Dimensions: 10.25in X 8.25in

The photographic frontispiece that adorned Farsari’s new studio albums [Figure 1] was an amalgamation of Orientalist visual motifs. Sharply-eaved pagodas, irenic bridges, beautiful geisha, antiquated rickshaws, and the famed Mt. Fuji all cluster around the simple, if not entirely self-evident, title of the album – Japan. In the center of the frontispiece we find the iconic Kamakura Daibutsu [Figure 2], the main attraction for tourists in Yokohama who could take a trip and return from the Daibutsu within a day’s time. Unsurprisingly, this photograph, too, was available for individual purchase [Figure 3].

Figure 2: Close up of Figure 1

apkd004af(cu)

Figure 3

APKD002af.jpg

  • Title/Caption: NA
  • Year: c. 1887
  • Photographer: Adolfo Farsari (1841-1898)
  • Medium: albumen silver print, hand tinted
  • Dimensions: 10.25in X 8.25in

The image of the Kamakura Daibutsu is bold and stunning. Balanced and symmetrically positioned within the frame, its stoic countenance greets the viewer with warmth. One of the characteristic, and marketable, traits of Farsari’s albums were their superior coloring. He boasted that his teams of Japanese painters tinted his photos in a realistic manner and guaranteed the colors would not fade, lasting “as long as ordinary oil paintings.” He attributed the effects to the rigorous trainign of his artists, who would apprentice between two and four months, before they were set to work, and to his  imported British paper. Reportedly, an individual artist under Farsari’s tutelage would only color two to three photographs per day, in contrast to the sixty put out by other studio artisrs. His work earned the praise of the famed novelist and poet, Rudyard Kipling, who complimented the faithful coloring of Farsari’s images once seeing the scenic vistas of Japan first hand on his trip through the countryside by steamship in 1889.[2] The gentle greenish-blue hue of the bronze statue here reflects the blue tinting of the sky above, as well as the garment of the kneeling supplicant, creating a cool, but not frigid, overall feeling in this image.

This photo is commonly assumed to be taken after Farsari’s studio fire in 1886, and was one of the centerpieces of his new collection of images given its prominent position in his photographic frontispiece. Farsari also sold a version of the Kamakura Daibutsu in vertical format [Figure 4], possibly taken on the same photography excursion. The kneeling man remains, but four more people are added in a row and all made to gaze upon the idol, causing the scene to look oddly staged. Our vertical image bears the catalogue number of Farsari’s stock (the horizontal image is sometimes marked with “L19 Daibutsu (A)”) and exhibits coloring that has – in contrast to Farsari’s bold claims – faded.

Figure 4

APKD003af.jpg

  • Title/Caption: L20 DAI BUTSU (B)
  • Year: c. 1887
  • Photographer: Adolfo Farsari (1841-1898)
  • Medium: albumen silver print, hand tinted
  • Dimensions: 10.25in X 8.25in

Always eccentric, Farsari returned home to Italy in 1890, after a twenty-tree year absence, and never returned to Japan.

Notes:

*This is part of a series of posts devoted to exploring the development of a visual literacy for Buddhist imagery in America. All items (except otherwise noted) are part of my personal collection of Buddhist-themed ephemera.

[1] Bennett 2006: 219. Many details of Farsari’s exciting life – of which I am merely summarizing here – are discussed in Bennett 2006: 219-223.

[2] Bennett 2006: 221, 223.

References:

  • Bennett, Terry. 2006. Photography in Japan: 1853-1912. Rutland, VT: Tuttle Publishing.

 

The “Buddha” Foxtrot by Pollack and Rose (Visual Literacy of Buddhism)

Listen to the Victor Record’s recording of Pollack and Rose’s “Buddha” from 1920 here: 

 

What is the sound of the Orient? As Edward Said had long ago shown, the “Orient” is more of an imaginary idea than a physical location. Because of this, several musical tropes have emerged in American consciousness that create an “Oriental atmosphere,” perhaps none more famous than the nine-note “Oriental riff” (da-da-da-da dah-dah, dah-dah daah) that became widely popular in the 1910’s and utilized, for example, in numerous racially stereotyped cartoons of the 1930’s to 1950’s[1]. It should be remembered, however, that before the widespread popularity of the phonograph, music still had to be played live to be heard. The publishing and selling of sheet music for home use was still widely practiced in the early twentieth century and because the American working class still clamored for the exotic Orient, musicians continued to compose “yellowvoice” Orientalist music.[2]

Early in his career, the composer and Vaudeville accompanist, Lew Pollack (1895-1946), started to experiment with Orientalist musical tropes, including a prototype of the Oriental riff. In 1918, he composed a piece entitled “Buddha” for an act performed by the singing and dancing “Mellette Sisters,” Helen and Rosalie (he would go on to marry Helen in 1921).[3] Lyrics were added to the musical composition by Ed Rose (1875-1935) and the work was published in 1919 by McCarthy & Fisher, Inc. [Figure 1].

Figure 1

01 cover.jpg

  • Title: Buddha [Operatic Edition]
  • Date: 1920 (date on reverse)[4]
  • Cover Artist: Unknown
  • Composer: Lew Pollack (1895-1946)
  • Lyricist: Ed Rose (1875-1935)
  • Publisher: McCarthy & Fisher Inc. (NY)

Given the title of the composition and the accompanying lyrics, it is not surprising to see that a Buddhist figure graced the cover of the sheet music. The cover depicts a scene of religious devotion, as a woman in traditional Japanese dress is positioned kneeling with her arms outstretched praying to the Buddhist image. A pair of incense burners beside the supplicant cast fragrant smoke trails into the air, while the background is festooned with decorative Asian motifs and ornamental lanterns. The overall golden hue of the scene is punctuated by the vibrant purple garment, focusing the viewers eye on the woman. The unknown artist employed these visual tropes to establish a setting of exoticism, femininity, and sensuousness – all established visual cues of the Orient.   

This illustration does not represent an authentic scene of Asian Buddhist worship, but the Western idea of Oriental religiosity. The Buddhist image only mimics traditional Asian art forms. The arms are folded atop one another, unlike the traditional joining of the hands in various meditative mudra positions, and the head appears to wear a crown or tiara, more like the vogue of early twentieth century American woman’s fashion than traditional Asian headwear. Even though the artist was not attempting to draw a particular Buddhist image, it is clear that the Kamakura Daibutsu was the iconic model. The overall style is definitively East Asian, but the open, draped robe exposing the chest and simple positioning of the arms in the lap closely mirror that of the Daibutsu. In addition, the frontward-facing, symmetrical composition would have echoed the numerous photographic images of the Kamakura colossus that had circulated for decades.  

What is likely the original cover for this piece was illustrated by André De Takacs (1880-1919), an artist known for his strong graphic style [Figure 2]. It is possible that De Takacs copied this image of the Kamakura Daibutsu from figural domestic bottles sold in department stores in the United States. The scene on the cover is spartan, but the whisps of smoke from the small fires suggest religious practice and the burning of incense. By examining the details of the image, it seems as if the unknown artist of the variant cover modified the origianal illustration of De Takacs, who died suddently in 1919. 

Figure 207cover28detackas29

 

  • Title: Buddha Fox Trot
  • Date: 1919 (date on reverse)
  • Cover Artist: André De Takacs (1880-1919)
  • Composer: Lew Pollack (1895-1946)
  • Lyricist: Ed Rose (1875-1935)
  • Publisher: McCarthy & Fisher Inc. (NY)

The small yellow phonograph icon on the lower left is inscribed with the words, “This Number is to be had on all Phonographic Records and Music Rolls. Ask your Dealer.” “Buddha” was recorded and published by several record companies, including the Lyraphone Company of America (as played by the Jazzarimba Orchestra; catalogue number 4204), Aeolian Company (Aeolian Dance Orchestra, 12166), Pathé Frères Phonograph Company (The Tuxedo Syncopaters, 22209; Peerless Quartet, 22334), Columbia Graphophone Company (Columbia Saxophone Sextette, A2876), and Victor Records (Sterling Trio and Peerless Quartet, 18653)[Figure 3].

Figure 3

MBVR.png

  • Title: Buddha
  • Date: 1920
  • Vocals: Peerless Quartet (Frank Croxton , John H. Meyer, Albert Campbell , Henry Burr)
  • Composer: Lew Pollack (1895-1946)
  • Lyricist: Ed Rose (1875-1935)
  • Publisher: Victor Talking Machine Company
  • Catalogue Number: 18653-A

The full musical score and lyrics of “Buddha” can be found here. The song opens with these lyrics: “In an oriental clime, seated on a mystic shrine, Buddha dwells, and dispels hate.” The lyrics of Ed Rose do not identity Japan or Kamakura as the setting for this song, but a more mystical “Oriental” location. The rest of the song sadly describes a woman who prays to the Buddha, pleading for her lover to return to her. This is not a novel melodic narrative. It clearly refelcts a story made famous by Giacomo Puccini’s opera Madame Buttefly, first performed in America in 1906. Even though neither of these musical pieces directly refers to the Kamakura Daibutsu, by the early twentieth century, the Kamakura colossus was the icon of the imaginary Orient for American audiences, thus the choice of cover illustration remains fitting.

Notes:

*This is part of a series of posts devoted to exploring the development of a visual literacy for Buddhist imagery in America. All items (except otherwise noted) are part of my personal collection of Buddhist-themed ephemera.

[1] This rhythmic device is discussed in Lancefield 2004: 730-35. The most popular recent use of this riff (in what might be its most iconic form) is found in Carl Douglas’ 1974 hit, Kung Fu Fighting.

[2] As coined by Robert Lancefield, “yellowvoice” refers to the ways in which Orientality was evoked through sound and music, see especially Lancefield 2004: 599-768. A rather exhaustive list of popular American songs with Chinese subjects or themes is found in Appendix A of Moon 2005.

[3] See the Vaudeville program information noted in Lancefield 2004: 604n.13. Pollack would compose another Asian themed piece, “Oh Sing-a-Loo, Whad’Ya Do with Your Que?” (1922).

[4] The song on the back cover is “Daddy, You’ve Been a Mother to Me” by Fred Fisher, with copyright date of 1920. Other prints have “While Others are Building Castles in the Air,” also by Fred Fisher, but copyrighted in 1919.

References:

  • Lancefield, Robert Charles. 2004. “Hearing Orientality in (White) America, 1900-1930.” Ph.D. dissertation, Wesleyan Universoty.  
  • Franceschina, John. 2017. Incidental and Dance Music in the American Theatre from 1786 to 1923 [Volume 3]. Albany: BearManor Media.
  • Moon, Krystyn. 2005. Yellowface: Creating the Chinese in American Popular Music and Performance, 1850’s – 1920’s. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
  • Selth, Andrew. 2016. Burma, Kipling and Western Music: The Riff from Mandalay. London: Routledge.

 

 

Ueda’s Unfussy Daibutsu Postcard (Visual Literacy of Buddhism)

Figure 1pckd006u(o)pckd006u(r)

  • Title/Caption: Daibutsu, Kamakura. 佛大倉鎌
  • Year: c. 1907 [postally unused]
  • Publisher: Ueda Photographic Prints Corp. 上田写真版合資会社
  • Medium: collotype print on cardstock, hand tinted
  • Dimensions: 5.5 in X 3.5 in
  • Reverse Imprint: Carte Postale [Type 2], 郵便はかき

The unknown photographer of this image set the camera slightly off-center, positioning it just to the left of the shoulder of the three-step stairway leading to the first landing. From this position the Daibutsu does not peer directly at the viewer, but slightly off to the side, creating a more restful, nonconfrontational composition. The Japanese visitors add to this genial environment, casually positioning their bodies in front of the Buddhist statue [Figure 2]. It appears as if one woman is fixing her hair as she casually looks back towards the camera. Another, older woman, appears to look dotingly upon a child who is plafully placing a foot on the fence around the con box. Unlike other staged photographs where Japanese supplicants are made to kneel in prostration in front of the Daibutsu, this presents a mundane scene. All of  these elements combine to create a spontaneous and unfussy mise en scène, a seeming “snap shot” of the daily affairs on temple grounds.

Figure 2

PCKD006u(o) visitors.jpg

The hand coloring is fairly typical of postcards of the period, with the Japanese garments painted in vibrant colors. We do not see pink cherry blossoms painted behind the Daibutsu, thus directing our attention to the brightly clothed visitors in the foreground. The reverse of the card does not indicate the publisher, but the design corresponds to the Type 2 back of Ueda publishing, dating this card between 1907-1918. The reverse is slightly unusual since the “Made in Japan” mark is on the lower edge of the card and not in the dividing line splitting the correspondence and address sections. Another small detail suggesting Ueda as the publishers is the coloring of the child clothing (pink with a red dot) as we find on other Ueda cards. In bold, cerulean letterpress (not the slight embossing on the back of the card from the lettering), the caption simply states the object and location, in English and Japanese – Daibutsu, Kamakura.

*This is part of a series of posts devoted to exploring the development of a visual literacy for Buddhist imagery in America. All items (except otherwise noted) are part of my personal collection of Buddhist-themed ephemera.

Kōzaburō’s Undivided Back Postcard (Visual Literacy of Buddhism)

Many early Japanese turn-of-the century postcards were colorful illustrations, cartoons, or woodblock prints, some of which were made by famed Japanese artists, but these traditional arts forms would soon lose favor to the photograph. One of the shifts that ushered in the visual dominance of photographic postcards was the introduction of private company postcards 私製はがき, which had been illegal to print until new postal regulations were introduced in 1900. In addition, the adoption of a new photomechanical printing technique, called the collotype, allowed for the wide availability of inexpensive photographic images of Japan.

Many early photographic postcards first circulated as albumen or silver gelatin prints sold by commercial photography studios. Early postcard publishers experimented with the orientation of the old images on the new format. By placing the image on the top half of a vertically oriented card, the bottom half could be reserved for the message [Figure 1]. Strategically designed areas or blank spots were necessary on the front of the card, because the reverse of the card was reserved solely for the name and address of the recipient until 1907. The regulations were determined by the Union postale universelle, the body which oversaw the postal system worldwide. These postcards, known today as “undivided back” cards, were replaced by “divided back” cards in 1907 in Japan, where the message could be included on the reverse of the card.

Figure 1

pckd002tk(o)pckd002tk(r)

  • Title/Caption: NA
  • Year: 1900-1907
  • Photographer: Tamamura Kōzaburō 玉村康三郎 (1856-1923?)[?]
  • Medium: collotype print on cardstock, hand tinted
  • Dimensions: 5.5 in X 3.5 in
  • Inscription: Union Postale Universelle. CARTE POSTALE, 萬國郵便聯合端書

The image depicts a wide angle view of the Daibutsu taken from the third landing. The positioning of the camera shows the rustic, yet landscaped grounds surrounding the Daibutsu statue. Lacking the presence of people, this bucolic setting exhibits a more quiet moment of the famous tourist destination.  On the right, the supports and roof of the ablution pavilion stick out from under an evergreen tree. The water basin (chōzubachi 手水鉢) for washing hands is found underneath (dating from 1749).

The photographer of this image is debated. Older studio albumen prints of this image are imprinted with “661 Daibuthu [sic] at Kamakura.” This numbering is consistent with the studio catalogue of Tamamura Kōzaburō 玉村康三郎 (1856-1923?)(See Bennett 2006: 152), but other sources attribute this image to Ogawa Kazumasa 小川 一眞 (1860-1929). (A similar, but not exact, photo has been identified in an Ogawa studio album). This exemplifies the difficulty in determining the correct attribution and age of old Daibutsu photographs, and more research still needs to be done.

Moreover, because the publishers of the postcard did not imprint their name on the back, it is difficult to tell who printed this tourist souvenir. The reverse of this card is bordered by an ornamental filigree-like design in umber brown ink. This card is an example of an “undivided back,” since no line appears separating the sections on the back where the correspondence and address would later come to be written. This functions now as an easy identifier for dating old postcards, with this exemplar dating between 1900 and 1907. (The photograph was probably taken in the mid-to-late 1890s). In addition, a small scalloped square appears in the top right corner, indicating the location to affix the necessary postage.

*This is part of a series of posts devoted to exploring the development of a visual literacy for Buddhist imagery in America. All items (except otherwise noted) are part of my personal collection of Buddhist-themed ephemera.

Ueda’s Daibutsu and Dog Postcard (Visual Literacy of Buddhism)

Collecting postcards became a national craze in Japan in the first decade of the twentieth century – and caused at least one riot. Yokohama, home to many of the oldest and most important Japanese tourist photography studios, became a major center of postcard production and the Ueda Photographic Prints Corporation 上田写真版合資会社, founded by Ueda Yoshizō上田義三 in the famed city port, was one of a handful of premier Japanese picture postcard publishers. Ueda’s early sets of cards included photographs of the Kamakura Daibutsu, but they and their business rivals continued to produce new views of this ancient colossus.

Professional and amateur photographs had long shot the Daibutsu frontally from long and medium distances. A few took photographs from the southwest corner, or even from behind, but images of the Daibutsu from the southeast was uncommon (although not unknown) likely because the landscaping did not easily allow for it. The grounds of Kōtoku-in 高徳院, the temple where the Daibutsu resides, had continuously undergone  renovations since Western tourists discovered it in the 1860’s, slowly opening up the areas around the statue and providing better “picturesque” viewing. One unknown photographer from Ueda was able to take a position in the southeast corner and take a photograph [Figure 1] – one of the very few from this angle.

Figure 1

pckd007u(o)pckd007u(r)

  • Title/Caption: Daibutsu, Kamakura. 佛大倉鎌
  • Year: c. 1912 [postally unused]
  • Publisher: Ueda Photographic Prints Corp. 上田写真版合資会社
  • Medium: collotype print on cardstock
  • Dimensions: 5.5 in X 3.5 in
  • Reverse Imprint: Carte postale – Postkarte – Post Card [Type 5], MADE IN JAPAN, 郵便はかき

This postcard image is also one of the few  photographs that does not incorporate any people in its composition, a technique which typically assisted the viewer in gauging and appreciating the sheer size of the statue. Only the most astute observer would note that the photograph is not devoid of all beings – there is a dog resting at the stone base of the statue [Figure 2]. The dog’s distinctive head patterning and white body suggests this may be the same dog photographed in two older stereoview cards, who is seen mingling with temple visitors and tourists. Serene and relaxed, both the Daibutsu and dog appear to be enjoying the relative quiet of the scene.

Figure 2

PCKD007u(o) dog.jpg

The Ueda crest on the reverse along with the distinctive multilingual printing clearly reveals this card to be part of the Ueda Corp. stock published after 1907, possibly around 1912. It is difficult to determine when the photograph was taken, but the presence of the dog suggests it was taken sometime after the first few years of the turn of the century, when the stereoviews were taken. While this is one among a dozen or more Japanese picture postcards produced of the Daibutsu before 1923 (when the Kantō earthquake destabilized the Japanese postcard industry), it remains one of the most unique.

*This is part of a series of posts devoted to exploring the development of a visual literacy for Buddhist imagery in America. All items (except otherwise noted) are part of my personal collection of Buddhist-themed ephemera.

 

 

Ueda’s Hand-Colored “Cerulean-Umber” Postcards (Visual Literacy of Buddhism)

In early 1904, Japan formally declared war on Russia after nearly a decade of rising tensions. Military attachés and journalists from around the world traveled to the front with photographers to chronicle the gruesome affair. This use of wartime photography propeled a surge in popularity of Japanese picture postcards (ehagaki 絵はかき), resulting in a spike of mass-produced, inexpensive postcards depicting Japan’s military might. The swell in Japanese nationalism and interest in seeing images of a modernized state helped create a Japanese postcard boom in the middle of the first decade of the twentieth century.[1] New private postcard publishing houses, such as Ueda Photographic Prints Corporation 上田写真版合資会社, Hoshinoya 星野屋, and Tonboya トンボヤ, grew in number as did their inventory of photographic postcards. Consequently, during this period numerous new images of the Kamakura Daibutsu were taken and sold to a ready market of Japanese and foreign travelers [Figure 1].

 Figure 1

pckd004u(o)

PCKD004u(r).jpg

  • Title/Caption: Daibutsu, Kamakura. 佛大倉鎌
  • Year: c. 1907 [postally used 1910]
  • Publisher: Ueda Photographic Prints Corp. 上田写真版合資会社
  • Medium: collotype print on cardstock, hand tinted
  • Dimensions: 5.5 in X 3.5 in
  • Reverse Imprint: Postkarte [Type 1], 郵便はかき

The unknown photographer of this postcard image set the camera on the second landing of the paved walkway and framed the Daibutsu frontally and symmetrically, similar to  numerous Yokohama port studios and foreign stereo-photographers of earlier years. The standard size ratio of the postcard allowed for a slightly larger panoramic sweep than that of older albumen prints, thus more of the foliage surrounding the site is visible. The mise-en-scène is natural and casual, unlike the highly choreographed images of piety taken by Herbert Ponting around the same period. The viewers eyes are eventually drawn to the group of people on the lower left, perhaps a family, that walks away from the Daibutsu. Except for the adolescent boy on the far left dressed in an oversized coat, no one makes eye contact with the photographer. This leaves the viewer with a sense of casual observation, as if seeing the normal daily activities of the temple grounds. The outfits of the family suggest a bricolage of cultures, as traditional flowing (and brightly colored) Japanese garments are mixed with Western attire, including a narrow brimmed hat worn by the older man and military school outfits (gakuran 学ラン) worn by the young boys (officially adopted in Japan in the 1880’s[2]). Another man sits on the far right, also wearing a brimmed hat, trousers, and vented jacket. To a Japanese viewer, these sartorial elements would be clear indications of a modern, militaristic, and “Westernized” Japan. Reading deeper, the lone kimono-wearing figure in the rear, closest to the Daibutsu, might symbolize the traditional and religious past being left behind by the more progressive present.

This collotype print on card stock was hand brushed with water color, but unlike the more conservative hues of older albumen prints sold at established port photography studios, postcards frequently have a touch of bright color, especially the warm vibrant hues of orange, scarlet, and pink. The early colorists of Daibutsu postcards often placed a splash of pink behind the statue, suggesting spring cherry blossoms, even though this was not a tradition of older Yokohama studios and – as far as I can discern – not botanically accurate.

In addition to this card, a vertical format of a similarly dated Daibutsu picture postcard [Figure 2] shows the same batch of tree foliage to the right of the Daibutsu also painted in cherry blossom pink.[3] Images such as these may function as the origins of the painting tradition for Daibutus postcards which continued for several decades, effectively ending when color photography was introduced. More curiously, in the horizontal image above, the colorist also included a red-leaved maple tree (just above the man in the short-brimmed hat), inaccurately suggesting that spring cherry blossoms and red autumn foliage appear in the same season! Of course, these decisions were not motivated by a fidelity to reality, but by a consumer market with idealized visions of a bright polychromatic Japanese landscape.

Figure 2

pckd005u1(o)pckd005u1(r)

  • Title/Caption: Daibutsu, Kamakura. 佛大倉鎌
  • Year: c. 1907 [postally unused]
  • Publisher: Ueda Photographic Prints Corp. 上田写真版合資会社
  • Medium: collotype print on cardstock, hand tinted
  • Dimensions: 5.5 in X 3.5 in
  • Reverse Imprint: Postkarte [Type 1], 郵便はかき

These two postcards were not only sold by the same publisher (the printing on the reverse is identical on both), but clues in these photographs suggest they were taken at the same time. Most tellingly, the shadows are sharp, indicating a clear afternoon, and fall across the face and shoulders of the Daibutsu in precisely the same way, indicating they was taken on the same exact time of day.[4]

For both the horizontally and vertically formatted postcards, the photographic image bleeds to the edges, except on the bottom where an unprinted border leaves space for a caption, here both in English and Japanese. Identifying the location of the site, the cerulean colored letterpress is simple and succinct: “Daibutsu, Kamakura,” (or “Kamakura Daibutsu” 鎌倉大佛 in Japanese).[5] Unlike older postcards, no blank space needed to be reserved on the front of the card because new postal regulations allowed correspondence to be written on the back in addition to the recipient’s name and address. The evidence for this change is the narrow umber (or orange-cinnamon) colored dividing line separating the message from the address space on the reverse.[6] The new regulations for “divided back” postcards were passed in March 1907, but took effect in October of the same year, thus providing a terminus post quem of 1907 for both cards above.

The reverse of these cards also clearly indicates the intended international audience for this expanding postal medium. “Postkarte” (postcard) is written in German along the long edge, followed by French, Italian, and Russian translations, as well as Japanese (yūbin hakaki 郵便はかき [sic]) along the short edge. Unfortunately, as is common for older cards, the reverse sides do not provide information pertaining to the publisher. I feel there is solid evidence, however, to believe these were published by the Ueda Photographic Prints Corporation, founded by Ueda Yoshizō上田義三 in the bustling port of Yokohama. This company was known for its prolific production of early Japanese postcards.[7] If we examine other similar hand colored collotype postcards with cerulean captions and umber printing on the reverse – hereafter I refer to this scheme as the Ueda “cerulean-umber” design – we find a clear relationship between our cards and later cards imprinted with the Udea Corp. trademark. If we examine another horizontal postcard [Figure 3] with the same image (even with the same coloring, down to the red spot on the child’s pink jacket), we can observe the printing on the reverse is different, suggesting it comes from a different print run.

Figure 3

PCKD005u(o).jpgpckd005u(r)

  • Title/Caption: Daibutsu, Kamakura. 佛大倉鎌
  • Year: c. 1910 [postally unused]
  • Publisher: Ueda Photographic Prints Corp. 上田写真版合資会社
  • Medium: collotype print on cardstock, hand tinted
  • Dimensions: 5.5 in X 3.5 in
  • Reverse Imprint: Carte postale – Postkarte – Post Card [Type 3], MADE IN JAPAN, 郵便はかき

Within a short period between 1907 and 1912, the design on the reverse of Ueda postcards changes several times [Figure 4], following a discernable progression, until the dividing line was capped by a heavily stylized Ueda crest in the last phase [Figure 5].[8] Please consult my working notes for an outline of these chronological changes.

Figure 4:

pckd004u5(o)pckd004u5(r)

  • Title/Caption: Daibutsu, Kamakura. 佛大倉鎌
  • Year: c. 1912 [postally unused]
  • Publisher: Ueda Photographic Prints Corp. 上田写真版合資会社
  • Medium: collotype print on cardstock, hand tinted
  • Dimensions: 5.5 in X 3.5 in
  • Reverse Imprint: Carte postale – Postkarte – Post Card [Type 5], MADE IN JAPAN, 郵便はかき

Figure 5: The Ueda Photographic Prints Corp. trademark/crest.

PCKD004u5(r) crest.jpg

These Ueda Corp. postcards were domestically produced (later editions cearly say “Made in Japan”), but had a worldwide circulation. The cards were not only purchased as inexpensive souvenirs or mailed to lucky recipients around the world, the premier commercial importer of Asian goods into America, A.A. Vantine & Co., also sold Ueda postcards at its flagship store in New York City and through it’s widely distributed mail order catalogue. Coincidentally, Vantine’s heavily illustrated 1914 catalogue [Figure 5] highlights the horizontal Daibutsu postcard along with pictures of geisha and pagoda, all well-worn visual motifs of the exotic Orient. Affordably priced, Vantine’s sold a dozen of these Ueda published postcards for 25 cents.  The copy of Vantine’s catalogue three years later [Figure 6] informs its prospective buyers about the value of these inexpensive items: “To one interested in ‘things Japanese,” or as a gift to a friend making a collection, nothing is more appropriate than a set of Japanese souvenir postcards.” [10]

Figures 5 (left) & Figure 6 (right) [not part of Archive]

 

Figure 7

IMG_9312

 

In addition, Vantine’s used Ueda postcards to confirm orders placed by customers [Figure 7], thus diffusing the idealized imagery of Japan, and notably that of the Kamakura colossus, to people who never left the confines of their living rooms. From this vantage point, a postcard of the Daibutsu was no longer a momento of a trip, but one verification among many of the cultural difference and strange Otherness of the Orient.

Notes:

*This is part of a series of posts devoted to exploring the development of a visual literacy for Buddhist imagery in America. All items (except otherwise noted) are part of my personal collection of Buddhist-themed ephemera.**This post is in honor of Josh Harris, thanks for all the postcards!

[1] See for example:  https://visualizingcultures.mit.edu/asia_rising/ar_essay01.html and https://visualizingcultures.mit.edu/yellow_promise_yellow_peril/yp_essay01.html

[2] The development of Japanese school uniforms are detailed here: http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/1041

[3] Uncolored versions of this vertical format postcard also exist.

[4] This is in addition to the era clues supplied by the fenced and gable-roofed coin donation box and small placard by the right leg of the statue. These environmental elements can be confidently dated, minimally, to between 1896 and 1905, but may extend a few years beyond this range. While the printed postcard must postdate October 1907 (see below) the photograph may have been taken several years earlier, although I would assign it to a time between 1904 and 1907.

[5] It is difficult to tell if a caption is printed or letterpress, but on some samples there is slight embossing of the letters on the back – a telltale sign of letterpress printing. Visually, some postcards will have slight soiling where the caption pushes through on the reverse.

[6] It should be noted that an older undivided back version of this postcard exists which is not in the Archive, it is rather astutely analyzed here: http://celio-barreto.strikingly.com/blog/about-a-photo-postcard-version-2-0.

[7] Preliminary information of Yokohama postcard publishers can be found here: http://www.kaikou.city.yokohama.jp/journal/images/kaikouno-hiroba_12.pdf. And here: http://tamayochankankousya.seesaa.net/article/420534147.html. For more scattered informaiton on Japanese publishers, see here: http://www.ikjeld.com/japannews/00000551.php. Of the three most important publishers in Yokohama, Ueda started his business in 1897, Hoshiya was started in 1904, and Tonboya in 1907.

[8] The Ueda Co. crest/trademark is comprised of the two characters of the Ueda family name: ue 上 repeated rotationally four times around da 田. Is should be remembered that earlier printed cards could remain unsold for several years before being purchased or mailed.

[9] The U.S. Stamp Act of 1894 required the country of origin to be printed on all foreign imports to the US, but this stipulation was not fastidiously practiced. In addition, this act was amended in 1919 so the words, “Made in,” be included on all imports, but clearly this practices was already established before 1919.

[10] Scanned versions of several of the Vantine’s catalogues can be found here: https://archive.org/search.php?query=creator%3A%22A.A.+Vantine+and+Company+%28New+York%2C+N.Y.%29%22

Bibliography:

横浜開港資料館, ed. 1999. 年前の横浜・神奈川―絵葉書でみる風景. Tokyo: Yurindo 有隣堂.