Kuniteru, Panorama of the Northern Provinces, 1868

Utagawa Kuniteru (1808 - 1876) Panorama of the Northern Provinces (Oshu Kaiga Ichran) 1868. Oban Triptych.

A classic panorama from the first year of the Meiji administration. This exciting print, like so many of the period, betrays the torment of the Japanese in their coming to terms with the new movement of ‘enlightenment’ and modernisation. This print has its antecedents in a genre of musha-e (warrior prints) that traditionally depict samurai heroes of the middle ages aboard boats. Kuniyoshi produced many of these naval prints, usually commemorating the battles of the Tokugawa clan in the 12th century. Kuniteru uses the same tropes as his teacher here; the relatively high viewpoint, the dramatic broadside of the boat, the busy, gesturing men on board and the frothing waves beneath the bows. There is a difference though; in the Kuniyoshi model, the barge is elaborate and decorative and constructed from timber plank. It is carved and canopied and the samurai cram the deck of the small vessels under streaming flags and pennants. In this print, the great black boat with its iron cladding and its powerful water wheel dominates the small waves (still drawn in the utagawa style) but men are tiny compared to the great bulk of the bows. Canon poke out of the upper deck and smoke billows from the funnel. By comparison the traditional Japanese barges in the background seem small and puny.

Our research suggests that this is most probably the steam-ship Kanko-Maru. Following the American incursion of the ‘Black Ships’ in 1854, the Shogunate turned to their traditional trading partners the Dutch for help. The Dutch sold them the Soembing in 1855 and it was renamed the Kanko-Maru after a line in the I Ching: 'to view the light of the country' (kankoku shi ko). She was taken over in 1868 by the Meiji Government and became the first ship of the Imperial Navy.

An historically important print and a print rich in naval history. It also forms a pleasing link to the musha-e of the past century. In very good condition, excellent impression and colour. Full size.

72cm x 36cm.