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Kawahara Keiga (1786 - c. 1860)

Two Dutch ships anchored in the bay of Nagasaki


Sumi ink and pigment on silk, H. 27 x W. 41 cm

Based on the style of the written date on the reverse sticker, it is most likely written by one of the Japanese translators working on Deshima. Therefore, this probably is the first painting by Kawahara Keiga of Dutch ships in the Bay of Nagasaki, a proof of competence to succeed his master Ishizaki Yũshi as a painter for the Dutch. In this painting, Keiga did his utmost to show his competence, which can clearly. be seen. For instance, in the mountains in the background with the detailed Ebisu Shrine, the texture of the waves and the chiaroscuro (particularly in the flags). This makes this early painting one of his best documented works.

In ‘het Dagregister’, the daily register of Deshima, Opperhoofd Jan Cock Blomhoff (1779-1853) on 29 July 1821 mentioned the arrival of the two frigates Fortitudo under captain Siewert Lieves (1787-1823) and Java under captain Andries Schott. On board the Fotitudo were the two camels, gifts from the Dutch government to the ‘Emperor of Japan’, the Shogũn Tokugawa Iehari (1773-1841) in Edo. In total four camels arrived during this period. However, at least one of the camels turned out to be more of financial security for Blomhoff’s Japanese wife after Blomhoff had left Deshima, than a gift for the shogun.

This painting was made while Jan Cock Blomhoff was Opperhoofd from 1817 to 1823, and Johan Frederik van Overmeer Fisscher (1800-1848) was his secretary. At that time, Ishizaki Yũshi was the official Japanese painter working for the Dutch and Kawahara Keiga was one of his pupils. Only in 1823, Keiga succeeded his master Yũshi as dejima de-iri eshi, a 'painter allowed to go in and out of Deshima’. The present painting, therefore, probably was ordered from Yũshi by one of the captains of the two ships. Because the picture clearly shows Keiga's hand, Yũshi probably passed on the commission to his pupil.

We are grateful to Prof. Matthi Forrer for his assistance in writing this catalogue entry.