‘Eene Eysche van den Keyser’
(the Emperor’s demand)
An important Japanese drawing of a Persian horse ordered by the Shogun
‘Eene Eysche van den Keyser’ (the Emperor’s demand)
Edo period, late 18th century
Colour and ink on paper, H. 26.5 x W. 39.7 cm
With inscriptions in Japanese reading:
‘The horse is a chestnut male horse from Persia. Age is approximately 6 years old. The length of the face is approximately 27 cm (?). Hair is approximately 14 cm long. Mane is approximately 15 cm long of curly hair.'
The Dutch text reading:
'Op d’Eysche staet boven de 95 duijmen hoogt, 441⁄2 duijmen t’ is volgens de Eysche niet volkomen gelijk hier afgeteekend maeten. Dit gedraegd(?) hair niet behaegt ook volgens de Eysche niet volkomen.'
The depicted horse apparently did not completely meet the Shogun’s size and markings requirements.
Because of the rather puzzling Dutch, written vertical top-down right to left, like Japanese script, the Dutch text most likely was written by a Japanese interpreter who had seen the horse.
The import of Persian horses by the Dutch started in the 1720s with Shogun Yoshimune (ruling from 1716 till 1745) because he was no longer satisfied with the small Mongolian horses.
Later Shogun Ieharu (ruling from 1760 till 1786) had asked the VOC several times for a Persian horse, but since
he had been very particular about its markings, the VOC had found it almost impossible to find the right horse. Finally, in 1778 the East Indiaman Roodenrijs arrived with the horse and Opperhoofd Feith was able to present it, with all ceremony, to Shogun Tokugawa Ieharu (1737-1786) during his court journey in the spring of 1779. The Shogun’s son and intended heir Iemoto took it out for a gallop, fell off and met his end. In his agony and fury, the shogun killed many, for beloved Iemoto, then eighteen years old, was his only son.
The demands of the Emperor are in the Dutch national archives, mostly in writing, describing exactly what the objects had to look like. Some drawings can also be found, such as the drawing of a crystal bowl or a silver table-set. The collection of the Emperor's demands can be found here.
Carl Peter Thunberg and the Shogun’s Realm 1775-1796, annotated and introduced by Thomas Screech, p. 42
Compare this drawing with:
Three coloured drawings of horses, by Emperor's demand, Eisen van de Keizer, circa 1765
On: Delpher, Dutch National Archive