[BRADY, Mathew, 1822-1896]; Yoshikazu UTAGAWA fl. 1850-1870. Gaikoku shashin kagami no zu. [Foreigners employing a camera.] Ukiyo-e woodblock print produced by the nishiki-e process. [Edo], 11th month: 1860.
A remarkable artefact in the history of photography: an ukiyo-e print featuring Mathew Brady at his camera, produced in November of 1860, less than six months before the outbreak of the Civil War, which Brady and his assistants would famously document. The print is notable on two points: It is one of the earliest representations of a camera in Japanese art history;1 and it is a rare representation of Mathew Brady at work. The artist, Utagawa Yoshikazu, based his art on an engraving published in the June 6, 1860 issue of Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, which shows Mathew Brady behind his enormous camera in the reception room of the Willard Hotel in Washington, photographing gifts brought from Tokyo by Japanese ambassadors on the occasion of their watershed trip to Washington to ratify the Treaty of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation with the Tokugawa Shogunate.2 Yoshikazu altered Frank Leslie's illustration, zooming in and centering on Brady and his camera, adding Western characters, including a delighted child, and adjusting the image's narrative to suggest Brady is pointing his camera at the outside world, through a door held open by a dedicated gentleman. The Willard Hotel lobby's famous vaulted ceilings are in evidence in Yoshikazu's representation. Little is known about Yoshikazu, except that he spent his entire life in Edo (Tokyo), was a student of Kuniyohsi Utagawa, and was best known for his yokohama-e, or images of the Occident, a world largely unknown to the Japanese people before 1854. We have located four institutional copies of our print, with natural variations in color, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Tokyo Metropolitan Library, and the Edo Tokyo Museum. A related print, based on Yoshikazu's, by an unknown artist, is also known, though it is a rather crude approximation. Withal a good copy of a yokohama-e ukiyo-e illustrating the quintessential 19th-century American photojournalist at work.
Single sheet, as issued. 368 x 244 mm. Print expertly lined on back with very thin kozo tissue. Wormed area to center of print, affecting camera image and child; two smaller worm trails; small wormholes passim; pale marginal stain at left; some fingersoiling to margins; judiciously trimmed, retaining generous margins. A good exemplar with vibrant inks.
Meech-Pekarik, Julia. The World of Meiji Print, New York and Tokyo: Weatherhill, 1986, pp. 13-19.
ARC Ukiyo-e Database: https://www.dh-jac.net/db/nishikie/results-big.php?f1=MET-DP148011&f9=%2A&f11=1&-format=resultsp.htm&enter=portal
1The same artist is noted for a rare print illustrating a French photographer, and is dated one month earlier than ours (1oth month, 1860).
2Caption to the newpaper engraving: "M. D. Brady and Frank Leslie's artists taking photographs and sketches of the Japanese Presents in the reception-room of the Embassy at Willard's Hotel, Washington." On the following page of the Newspaper, the editors summarize thus: "Mr. Brady and our Artists. Our artists, in company with M. B Brady, Esq., the celebrated photographist, were permitted to take sketches of the assembled Japanese in their reception-room at Willard's Hotel. Mr. Brady also took many successsful and beautiful photographs, which, together with others in his possession, will form a Japanese gallery of exceeding interest."
Illustrations: Recto, verso, and details of print; engraving and printed item from Saturday June 6, 1860 issue of Frank Leslie's Illutrated Newspaper, courtesy archive.org; illuminated lightbox image of print.