japonisme: turnabout

17 November 2006


this beautiful print of the empress of the meiji period is from the early 1870s. the emperor meiji was 15 in 1867 when he began his largely figurehead rule. his most important role was to serve as an example, and what he believed was most important to exemplify were the western values of free education for all children, and western clothing for him and his family.

what had been felt as xenophobia from the occupying forces -- er... new trading partners -- swiftly shifted: suddenly everyone wanted to be western. the opposite of japonisme? it was now believed that this would lead to civilization and enlightenment.

it's one of those ironies of history that tells us that it was fenollosa and other westerners who convinced the japanese at that time that their own cultural heritage was rich, and worth saving, and honoring.

(meiji imperial family [detail], kunichika toyohara, nd.; godey's fashions for february, 1874)

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hi, and thanks so much for stopping by. i spend all too much time thinking my own thoughts about this stuff, so please tell me yours. i thrive on the exchange!

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