Japanese Boat Model in Western Art

A fellow ship modeler sent me a photo he took at a Tissot exhibit at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco recently. Jacques Joseph Tissot was a French painter who is famous for his  biblical paintings as well as his paintings of fashionably dressed women of everyday life in France and England. Fortunately, his works are all in the public domain, so I can comfortable share it here.

One painting in particular is called Young Women Looking at Japanese Objects, which he painted in 1869, shortly after the opening of Japan to trade. It depicts two young ladies looking at a large model of a gozabune, a kind of royal yacht used by the Japanese Daimyo in their local travel.

It’s not a very good view of the model, but a closer look shows some detail, which is nice to see. There even appears to be a small figure standing in the opening at the stern.

Of interest to me is the fact that this is a painting of model as it appeared in 1869. It is not unlike other models I’ve seen, probably about 1/20 scale. I specifically note that the rudder and oars are all painted red, and the ceremonial banners and there are several ceremonial banners and poles flying at the stern.

There appears to be a banner flying forward and above the tall deck houses, but it is partially obscured, and I don’t have enough knowledge to identify the crest displayed on it.

I can’t help but wonder what ever became of the model…

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