Cherry Blossom, Uyeno, Tokyo


Hand coloured albumen print
Circa 1880
D. 25,4 × 20 cm


This photograph on albumen paper, attributed to Esaki Reiji, is part of the refined production of the Yokohama school, whose subtle tones and soft colour palette ensured its success, especially with Westerners.  Here, the colour sublimates the subject of these cherry trees in bloom.

Trained by Shimooka Renjo, one of the first Japanese photographers, Esaki Reiji opened his photographic studio in the early 1870s. His studio, like those operating in the free ports, accumulated picturesque views of the country, its landscapes and traditions, for foreigners. Indeed, the Westerners’ taste for exoticism conditioned the subjects selected by the photographers.

If the use of colour, so typical of Japanese photography, was initially intended as a documentary tool, it is now spreading for its aesthetic side and contributes to the originality of Japanese production. Hand-coloured, these photographs bear witness to a specific know-how, and the translucent colours are obtained from pigments mixed with bone glue (nikawa). This technique is particularly suited to the paper used for the print, whose main component is albumen. This warm-toned paper is particularly suitable for the colouring technique, whose translucent aspect reinforces the naturalism of the representation.

Condition report: Insignificant crease on the bottom edge, small ink mark on the back “つ”, very good condition