1862 Sadahide View of American Ships Departing California

亜墨利迦州迦爾波爾尼亜港出帆之圖 / [View of Ships Departing from the Port of California, America]. - Main View

1862 Sadahide View of American Ships Departing California


Early Japanese connections with San Francisco.


亜墨利迦州迦爾波爾尼亜港出帆之圖 / [View of Ships Departing from the Port of California, America].
  1862 (undated)     15 x 30.5 in (38.1 x 77.47 cm)


A magnificent Ukiyo-e woodblock triptych in the distinctive Yokohama-e style, produced in 1862 by the genre's most prolific master, Utagawa Sadahide. It portrays a group of American ships leaving the 'port of California,' almost certainly San Francisco, presumably bound for Japan. This work is especially notable as it depicts a purely foreign scene, rather than the more common illustrations of foreigners in Yokohama or elsewhere in Japan.
A Closer Look
Modifying a theme of Yokohama-e, Sadahide presents foreign ships departing for Japan rather than arriving at Yokohama. The 'port of California' referred to in the title is surely meant to be San Francisco. The title is also notable for demonstrating the early, evolving terminology used for foreign places (the phonetic transliteration '亜墨利迦州' is employed instead of the later, simpler '米國' or the kana transliteration 'アメリカ').

Sadahide is a bit too generous in his presentation of the San Francisco waterfront as an imposing row of stone structures. He was correct, however, in highlighting the excited bustle of ships, people, and animals around the port. Vessels of various sizes and methods of propulsion head out to sea. A couple of explanatory notes describe the 'rigging monkeys' on the ship at left.
Sadahide and Yokohama-e
Sadahide is most closely associated with Yokohama-e (橫濱繪), a genre of woodblock prints which he largely defined, depicting foreigners and the cultural interactions between Japan and the outside world that took place in Yokohama. Although Japan had reluctantly signed a 'Treaty of Peace and Amity' with the United States in 1854, opening the door for greater foreign presence and influence in Japan, the terms were quite vague until a subsequent treaty, the Treaty of Amity and Commerce (also known as the Harris Treaty), was signed in 1858, opening Japanese ports to foreign trade. Other foreign powers piled into Japan to sign similar treaties stipulating rights for their nationals to trade and reside in certain Japanese ports. The most important of these 'treaty ports' were Nagasaki and Yokohama, the former having been a major port for centuries, the latter much less so.

Much like Shanghai in China, Yokohama was a sort of 'blank slate' rather than a well-established port, allowing it to grow rapidly within the context of the treaty arrangements, becoming the main conduit for the exchange of people, goods, and ideas between Japan and the outside world. Artists, Sadahide chief among them, rushed to depict the new visitors, who were regarded with both curiosity and revulsion, but in either case were an object of keen interest throughout Japan.
Getting to Know Each Other
This print was produced only two years after Japan's first diplomatic embassy to the United States of America, sent in 1860. The embassy, composed of 72 men, was meant to ratify the terms of the 1858 Harris Treaty, but also served as an opportunity to acquire knowledge about the outside world and display the Shogunate's embrace of foreign technology (it travelled on the Kanrin Maru, Japan's first domestically-produced sail and screw-driven steam corvette). Its translator was Nakahama Manjirō (中濱 万次郎), who as an adolescent was shipwrecked off the coast of Japan and rescued by an American whaling ship, allowing him to learn English and making him perhaps the earliest Japanese immigrant to the United States. Accounts of the United States by Nakahama, other members of the embassy, and other early visitors, along with works translated from English, were a hot commodity in the closing years of the Edo period (1600 - 1868). Having never been to California, Sadahide's vivid prints would have been based on such descriptions, along with first-hand knowledge of American ships, clothing, and customs from his interactions in Yokohama.
Publication History and Census
This triptych of woodblock prints was produced by Utagawa Sadahide in 1862. Sadahide's signature, along with that of one Asakura (朝倉), named as head engraver, and the publisher, Etsuka (越嘉), are included on each print. This view is quite rare, only being noted among the holdings of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Kobe City Museum.


Sadahide Hashimoto (橋本貞秀; ハシモト, サダヒデ; 1807 - 1878), also known as Gountei Sadahide (五雲亭貞秀) and Hashimoto Gyokuran (橋本玉蘭), was a Japanese artist active in Yokohama in the second half of the 19th century. He was born in Chiba Prefecture. Hashimoto is best known for his renderings of foreigners, in particular Western peoples and customs, as observed while living in the open port of Yokohama. He is considered to be a disciple of Takako Kunisada, another artist of the Toyokuni Utagawa school, earning him the name Utagawa Sadahide (歌川貞秀). Hashimoto met Kunisada in 1826, when he was 14 years old and most of his early work reflects the work of Kunisada. Even before the Bankumatsu period, Sadahide took an interest in distant and foreign lands, publishing an important and controversial account of the First Opium War between Britain and Qing China (Kaigai Shinwa, 海外新話) with the scholar Mineta Fūkō (嶺田楓江). Following the 'opening of Japan' in 1853, he produced a series of prints of Ainu people in Kita Ezo zusetsu (北蝦夷図説) as well as a world map that was likely based on a Dutch original (https://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/world-mineta-1853), also with Mineta. He developed an interest in geography and began issuing maps and bird's-eye views, some quite large over multiple panels, of Japanese cities. At the very end of the Tokugawa period, he moved to Nagasaki and was selected as part of a Japanese delegation to the International Exposition of 1867. Sadahide died about a decade later, living long enough to see the rapid transofrmation of Japan following the Meiji Restoration. He was a mentor to Hideki Utagawa. More by this mapmaker...


Good to very good. Wear and some chips along edge. Three small holes, two of them on the middle print.


Metropolitan Museum of Art Accession Number 2007.49.133a–c.