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Published: Ono Tadashige, Edo no Yogaka (Western-Style Painters in the Edo Period), Tokyo, Sansaisha, 1968, p.110 (misattributed to Kawahara Keiga)
This Western-style portrait of one of the Netherlands' most devoted pre-modern students of Japanese language and culture was likely painted by Ishizaki Yushi (1768-1846), a painter associated with the close-knit Dutch community that lived on the tiny fan-shaped islet of Dejima in Nagasaki Harbour. The best-known Japanese painted image of Hendrik Doeff, a small (35cm x 23cm) bust portrait on paper in Kobe City Museum, is clearly a representation of the same individual and shows him in three-quarter profile, dressed in the same uniform but with the accoutrements of his office as props: inkstand, quill and a shelf of books. Both the Kobe portrait and the present lot have, like many other Western-style paintings of Western subjects from this period, been traditionally but incorrectly attributed to Yushi's pupil Kawahara Keiga, who was active in Nagasaki only from 1823, six years after Doeff's depature (see below). (1)
The extraordinary quality and psychological insight of the painting, far superior to the Kobe portrait, suggests the hand of an artist with thorough and varied training and a keen interest in his human subjects, qualities that are abundantly evident in signed or more firmly attributed works by Ishizaki Yushi, in particular the portrait of Ota Nanpo mentioned below; judging from the age of the sitter one might speculate that it was executed toward the end of Doeff's time in Nagasaki.
Born the son of Arai Gen'yu, Yushi studied both Chinese-style and Western-style painting (including mirror painting) under his father's direction; his father's own teacher Ishizaki Gentoku also instructed him in Western-style painting and he was adopted into the Ishizaki family at the age of 21. He is best known for his success in marrying the manner of painting introduced to Nagasaki by the Chinese émigré Shen Nanpin in 1731-33 with Western techniques of perspective and chiaroscuro. He inherited from his father the title of Kara-e mekiki (Censor of Foreign Art Works) (2) and from 1796 was permitted to frequent and paint in the foreigners' quarters.
Yushi occupied a central position in the world of Nagasaki painting for many years, reputedly training more than 270 pupils, but his activities were not confined to that city: he appears to have travelled as far as Osaka and to have met such luminaries as Kimura Kenkado and Motoori Norinaga. He painted a meticulously naturalistic, insightful Western-inflected birthday portrait of the artist, poet and wit Ota Nanpo (Shokusanjin) during the latter's brief government service in Nagasaki in 1804-5 and the two men remained on close terms.3 (superscript) His best known painting in a Western collection is the Portrait of the Cock Blomhoff Family (1817) in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; (4) portraits of Blomhoff and of Mr and Mrs De Villeneuve, views of Nagasaki, and paintings of Dutch ships and related subjects are in Kobe City Museum and Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture.
Born in Amsterdam, Hendrik Doeff (1777-1835) arrived at Dejima in 1799 and was promoted to the position of Opperhoofd (Commissioner) of the Dutch factory (trading post) four years later, remaining in Dejima until 1817. The early years of his appointment coincided with the French occupation of the Netherlands and the British occupation of Java, with the result that hardly any ships visited Dejima, leaving Doeff with plenty of time to embark upon an intense and systematic study of the Japanese language, latterly aided by official interpreters. This resulted in his great Dutch-Japanese dictionary, completed in 1817 but not published until 1855, and in 1833 he also published Herinneringen uit Japan, a volume of memoirs regarding Japan. (5) The eponymous hero of British novelist David Mitchell's novel The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (London, Sceptre/Hodder and Stoughton, 2010), is based in part on Doeff and the narrative incorporates several incidents from his career, including the British naval bombardment of Nagasaki in 1808.
1. For the Kobe portrait, see the Kobe City Museum website,
2. Timon Screech, The Western Scientific Gaze and Popular Imagery in Later Edo Japan: The Lens Within the Heart, Cambridge, New York and Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 1996, p.157
3. Private collection, see Kobayashi Fumiko and Mukojima Nobuhiro, 'Ishizaki Yushi "Ota Nanpo shozo" (Ishizaki Yushi's "Portrait of Ota Nanpo"),' Ukiyo-e geijutsu (Ukiyo-e Art), 2007 (154), pp.78-79, accessible at http://unno.nichibun.ac.jp/geijyutsu/ukiyoe-geijyutsu/lime/154_078.html
5. For a fresh, recently published look at the Anglo-Dutch conflict in relation to Nagasaki, see Timon Screech, 'Thomas (Sir Stamford) Raffles (1781-1826) and Dr. Donald Ainslie (died 1816),' and 'Admiral Sir Fleetwood Pellew (1789-1861) and the Phaeton Incident of 1808,' in Hugh Cortazzi ed., Britain and Japan: Biographical Portraits: Volume X, Honolulu, University of Hawai'i Press, 2016.
For an account of Doeff's dictionary project and the controversy over its authorship, see Rudolf Effert, 'The Dufu Haruma: An Explosive Dictionary', in Anna Beerens and Mark Teeuwen eds., Uncharted Waters: Intellectual Life in the Edo Period, Essays in Honour of W.J. Boot, Leiden, Brill, 2012, pp.197-220.