Sunday, 16 June 2013

Mount Fuji, painting on silk

Mount Fuji view.

I have no idea how and when this large (60 x 70cm.) Japanese painting on silk came to the low countries. Nor have I any idea when it was painted and by whom. It was framed with an expensive frame in the-Hague, Netherlands, by framer Johan Jacob Schraag esth. Hofspui 10. It must have fallen out of grace because I stumbled over it recently, neglected and covered in dust and dirt, and couldn't resist adopting it.   
Taking it out of the frame and removing the matt for cleaning I discovered the colours have faded considerably and there's a stain in the centre. It must have been a spectacular picture once. I wonder if the fading could be restored and also if such an entreprise would be worth while. 

I couldn’t find anything resembling Googling. But there are a few things to tell about the scene, its’ location and the traditional small sailing boat from contemporary photogravures, Japanese watercolour paintings and woodblock prints. 
Mount Fuji as seen from Tagoura Harbour in Shizouka province in an old hand coloured photographure. This junk probably a larger (sea-going ?) type of sailing ship.

Above three watercolor paintings 1900-1930 with similar views and identical  small sailing ships.  
Photogravures: "Mount Fuji from Numagawa (?) along Tokaido" by Italian early photographer Adolpho Farsari (1841-1898) see here* for Yokohama Shashin and the process of Japanese hand colouring early photographures. 
Photographs sometimes were mirrored (I discovered) for postcard editions and the one below, according to the silhouette of Mt Fuji seems to have been taken on the other side of Mt. Fuji. Because of the possible mirroring effect (Mt. Fuji 's cone isn't symetyrical) however, I cannot be sure (below view from the Fuji river).  

Woodblock prints by Hasui Kawasa (1883-1957) and Hiroshige (1797-1958)
and Konen Uehara (1878-1940) (Compare the asymetry  to the postcard above !)

PS: don't try to do what I did. Improving the faded areas. The very very thin silk mesh is painted/dyed before it is attached to a cotton backing cloth. Any attempt to add pigment seeping through the mesh and colouring the white underlying cotton. Also the condition of silk has deteriorated so much due to UV-light it disintegrates almost while looking at it. Let alone when you touch it. In the end it proved to be an hopeless endeavor. For an amateur. So: lessons learned.     

All pictures (mouse-clickable to embiggen) borrowed freely from the Internet for friendly educational and non commercial use only. 


  1. Hi Gerrie,

    I like it the way it is. Think of all the glances thrown its way through the decades from one generation through the next and beyond, and they probably didn't even notice it was fading. It was part of a house's history.

    1. I suppose you are right Karen. The very thin painted silk is attached to a supporting, unpainted cotton fabric. The woven silk it self in places is very brittle and there's is some damage. There's no way of restoring it. It delivered some nice pictures though.