© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London | Licence: CC BY-NC-ND
© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London | Licence: CC BY-NC-ND

'Japanese junks'

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From the Collection


From an album by James Henry Butt (1844-1936) containing 51 watercolour drawings, 50 mounted on separate pages, with one loose item and three blank sheets. They are mainly in chronological order and were presumably mounted in the album and captioned later, generally in pencil on the album page below the image, though some have monograph signatures, brief inscriptions and dates. The opening view of Cape Town is followed by 45 Eastern ones, mostly coastal, with two figure studies of Japanese girls. The last two drawings are an undated view of Posillipo, near Naples and one of Start Point, Devon, the latter made in August 1870 before Butt's next (home) posting in May 1871. He made all the others while second and subsequently third lieutenant of HMS 'Sylvia', survey ship, Commander Edward Wolfe Brooker (1827-70), which sailed for the China Station in late 1866 via Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town and the Andaman Islands to undertake hydrographic work mainly in southern and western Japan. No. 47 of 51. inscribed by the artist on the album page, as title, but without any suggestion of where the coastal location may be. Colleagues in the Museum of Maritime Science, Tokyo, have kindly identified the principal vessel, lying at anchor, as a 'bezaisen' of about 150 tons: while smaller ones were used for local voyages, this size was a long-distance trader typical of Osaka and Kyoto region at this period. Another similar vessel in the distance has sail raised, but is making little headway in what appears calm, overcast weather.

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© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

From the Watercolour World