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ELEPHANT ADVERTISEMENT. - [Tenjiku Watari - Nama Taiho].

Yokahama? Sugiyama Kichizo [c1875-1883?]. Woodcut broadside 33x48cm. Folded, the printing somewhat rushed and blurred, a rather good copy. Owner's seal on the back. ¶ A kawaraban - or news sheet - style advertisement for the great elephant show. There are at least four versions of this print. One, I haven't seen, is dated 1875 and one is dated 1883. I'm told the age of the elephant changes in each print - in ours he is eight - which should be a reliable guide to the date but it isn't. Waseda University illustrates another version of this, a better defined woodblock - in which we can see clearly that up on the howdah an acrobat is balancing a barrel on one foot - but less funny. In theirs the keeper is offering a handful of hay, in ours the pratfall has been caught. The finer detail and lack of joke indicates that theirs is the earlier version. I have seen one other copy of this print and it's as blurred as ours. The third version sits somewhere between the two in quality but in that the elephant is nine and the print is dated 1883. Three or four separate woodblocks indicates these things were being printed as fast and plentiful as the impresario could churn them out. 1863 was the year of the elephant in Japan, the great Indian elephant drew squillions of spectators and the artists and printmakers went crazy. It wasn't the first elephant to arrive in Japan but it had been near 150 years since the last one. That elephant went on tour after a spell in Tokyo but surely our elephant isn't that same one? What I can make out of the text suggests it might be but that makes nonsense of the age. Certainly our elephant has progressed from being a drawcard by merely existing to being the star of a theatrical show. Sugiyama Kichizo was a theatre manager in Yokohama.
AUD 500.00 [Appr.: EURO 314.25 US$ 354.55 | £UK 277 | JP¥ 39138] Book number 10130

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