Yanagawa Shigenobu I 初代柳川重信 (1787–1832)
Dutch Couple
From the series Storm of the Willow (Yanagi no arashi)
Japan, Edo period (1615–1868), c. 1832
Woodblock print; ink and color on paper
Purchase, Richard Lane Collection, 2003

Born and raised in Edo, Yanagawa Shigenobu I (1787–1832) had limited familiarity with the Dutch tradesmen who visited Nagasaki on the opposite side of the archipelago, and he almost certainly never met a foreign woman in person. The knowledge he did have of them seems to have originated from imported copper engravings, and in this work, he copies parts of the figures from those sources and uses his imagination to fill in the missing pieces.

Richard Lane has commented how the pubic hair is comically reminiscent of depictions of the Buddha, whose proof of divinity include his tightly curled hair. Other aspects of the print are equally incongruous, such as the oval-shaped shadow beneath the woman’s buttocks and the architectural decoration that the woman props her head upon like a hakomakura pillow. Arguably the most charming aspect of this work is the dialogue that fills the empty space in the upper corners. Since the characters are Europeans, and since the artist had no understanding of their language, the dialogue is composed entirely of gibberish.

View info on museum database (enabled through support by the Robert F. Lange Foundation)