[N.p., but likely Washington, D.C. ca. 1860]. Ink and wash drawing on paper, approximately 10 3/4 x 15 3/4 inches. Couple short closed marginal tears. Near fine. Matted. Item #WRCAM55283
A unique piece of original artwork documenting the early history of Japanese-American relations, this is a sketch of the 1860 Japanese Embassy to the United States. Rendered in pen and ink washes, the piece depicts six men of the Japanese diplomatic delegation. Presumably the seated gentleman and the other two wearing tate-eboshi (tall black hats, worn by samurai) are the three plenipotentiary members of the Embassy: Ambassador Shinmi Masaoki (1822-1869), Vice- Ambassador Muragaki Norimasa (1813-1880) and Observer Oguri Tadamasa (1827-1868). The subjects are pictured wearing traditional Japanese dress and notably carry daisho, the matched pair of katana and wakizashi swords traditionally carried by the samurai class. One of the other men depicted stands in the background, wears less formal clothes, and is without a hat. He bears a resemblance to images of the youngest member of the delegation, translator Tateishi Onojiro (1843-1917), affectionately referred to by American observers as "Tommy." A contemporary manuscript note on the verso reads "Ambassadors in robes of state." The Embassy was the first-ever diplomatic mission from Japan dispatched to the United States. While Japan did have some contact with Europe prior to establishing its isolationist "Sakoku" policy in the early 17th century, there had been no formal contact with early colonial America. With the arrival of Commodore Matthew C. Perry in Edo Bay in July 1853, Japan began ending its isolationist policies. During this process a Treaty of Amity and Commerce was negotiated between Japan and the United States, signed on July 29, 1858 on the USS Powhatan in Edo Bay. The treaty was ratified by the United States Senate on December 15, 1858, and by Japan on March 19, 1859. A formal Embassy was organized to travel to the United States to exchange the ratifications. They arrived in Washington, D.C. on May 14, 1860 and were formally presented to President Buchanan on the 17th. The ratifications were exchanged on the 22nd, a grand banquet was held on the 29th, and on their final visit on June 5th, the delegates were gifted with commemorative gold medals. The Japanese were met with great interest and enthusiasm at each point of their journey with the newspapers reporting huge crowds. Noted battlefield artist Alfred Rudolph Waud (1828-1891) was born and raised in London, where he attended the Government School of Design at Somerset House before immigrating to the United States in 1850. Upon his arrival, Waud worked primarily as a freelance artist until May of 1861 when he was retained as a sketch artist and special correspondent by the NEW YORK ILLUSTRATED NEWSPAPER to report on the war. At the close of 1861, Waud joined HARPER'S WEEKLY, where he was one of their foremost illustrators through the end of the war, and afterwards. He is best known for his depictions of Gettysburg that appeared as engravings in HARPER'S WEEKLY, and for his rendering of "The First Vote" by former slaves during Reconstruction. Waud died in Marietta, Georgia in 1891, while touring southern battlefields. While some of Alfred Waud's work remains in private hands, the Library of Congress houses most of his original wartime sketches. This includes two pencil drawings by Waud documenting the same visit by the Japanese Embassy as the present wash drawing. The first is titled, "Scene in the corridor; outside the Japanese apartments at Willards showing one of the princes the use of the microscope and stereoscope" and the second is "One of the Rooms at Willards in which the Japanese will be located - and where their reception will take place." Both are impromptu, rough, preliminary pencil sketches and do not show the delicate ink washes seen here that give this more complete drawing increased depth and humanity. Plus, those drawings feature only one member of the Japanese Embassy in one of the drawings. The present drawing presents a dignified image of the Japanese diplomatic mission as a whole. Though the drawing is unsigned, it is accompanied by a letter from Waud's great-grandson Norman Burns, dated February 14, 1977, in which he states that the drawing was left to him by Waud as part of his collection. A powerful and unique group portrait of an important delegation from the early years of post-Perry Japanese-American diplomacy.