Utagawa Yoshitora

active ca. 1836-1887

Acrobats from 'Central India' Performing in Yokohama
(Tenjikujin Yokohama nite Karuwaza no Zu)

signed Yoshitora ga, with publisher's seal Fujikei-shi (Fujiokaya Keijiro), and censor's date seal, Ne-san, aratame (year of the rat [1864], 3rd month, examined), ca. 1864

oban tate-e 14 1/4 by 10 in., 36.3 by 25.4 cm

In March of 1864 the multi-talented and colorful American gymnast and acrobat Richard Risley Carlisle (1814-1874) arrived in Japan with his traveling circus of ten acrobats and eight horses. The former postmaster (in New Jersey) and bounty hunter (in the town he founded, New Carlisle, Indiana), used the stage name of Professor Risley, and his signature talent (still known as the 'Risley act') was juggling objects, and children (initially his two sons, John and Henry), with his feet while lying on his back. Carlisle was prohibited from touring his show in Japan and was restricted to only performing in Yokohama, sharply limiting his potential audience. Catering to the foreign clientele, he billed the troupe as performing acrobatic tricks from Central India, which presumably sounded suitably exotic to the expatriate residents of Yokohama. When interest in the circus waned and the show closed, Carlisle stayed on in Japan to establish a dairy business, becoming the first seller of milk and ice in Japan. A few years later he formed a new show that he successfully toured through America and around the world as the 'Imperial Japanese Troupe.'

Gerhard Dambmann, Japan het Westen ontdekte: Een geschiedenis in houtsneden, 1988, p. 67, no. 26 (similar composition by Yoshitora)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, accession no. 2007.49.217
(inv. no. 10-5317)

price: Sold


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site last updated
June 16, 2021

Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
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