Japanese Ethnographic Portraits of South Americans, 1720

 I was surprised to find that these images exist, but I’m glad they do. Apparently produced as part of a visual ethnography of the world’s cultures written by a Japanese interpreter for the Dutch merchant community in Nagasaki named Nishikawa Joken, they depict “people from each of the 42 barbarian countries outside of Japan.” (My […]

Image of the Week 3: "Cats Forming the Characters for ‘Catfish’"

Today’s image is a surreal print by one of the last great masters of traditional Japanese woodblock printing, Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861). An assemblage of black and white, tan and calico cats, looking quite content with themselves, float in an abstract color field of steel gray, cream and blue, their twisting bodies forming an approximation of […]

Europeans as ‘Other,’ Redux [February 2011 update]

A post today inspired by last week’s post on early modern Japanese and Chinese depictions of Europeans. Thinking about that led me to look more closely at an image I’ve had filed away for awhile — a remarkable example of sixteenth century Japanese Nanban (‘Southern Barbarian’) art depicting a group of Portuguese merchants at a […]

Europeans as ‘Other’

They eat with their fingers instead of with chopsticks such as we use. They show their feelings without any self-control. They cannot understand the meaning of written characters. – From Charles R. Boxer, The Christian Century in Japan, 1549-1650 (London, 1951). Chinese and Japanese representations of sixteenth century Europeans have always fascinated me. We’re used […]