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

'Tycoon's Palace, Osaka' [Japan]

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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. 12 of 51. inscribed by the artist on the album page, as title, and dated '1/68'. 'Tycoon' (great lord) was originally an alternative Japanese term for describing the shogun to foreigners. In 1615 the Castle of Osaka fell to assault by the founding father of the shogunate, Tokugawa Ieyasu, when the Toyotomi clan who began its construction in 1583 were extinguished as a political power. It was originally a stone structure: the outer walls, moat and a great deal else were substantially completed under Tokugawa rule in the 1620s, though it subsequently suffered much neglect and damage, including loss of the main tower to fire in 1665. Much of the outer wall, which Butt shows, was restored in 1843 and he saw it just before a further period of fire and conflict damage in the events surrounding the Meiji restoration (the Boshin War, 1868 -69) in which the lord of Osaka was an adherent of the Emperor against the shogunate. Further restoration, damage in the Second World War, and subsequent reconstruction followed. Today its appearance is only externally authentic, the modern main tower being post-war concrete with a non-historical interior. The only largely authentic shogunate castle which now survives (including a largely wooden main tower) is the so-called 'White Heron' castle at Himeji, a little to the west.

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© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

From the Watercolour World


Imperial Palace, Tokyo, Japan