"Highlights Of Japanese Culture, New And Old, On View In Los Angeles And New York"
by Chadd Scott in Forbes
Three thousand miles across the country and over 100 years back in time another example of Japanese culture goes on display–and on sale. Paris’ Librairie le Feu Follet takes a historic collection of early Japanese photographic images taken by Felice Beato to the 59th edition of the New York Antiquarian Book Fair at the Park Ave Armory March 7-10.
Known as the first photographer to devote himself entirely to photographing in Asia and the Near East, Beato was also one of the first war photographers, photographing the Second Opium War. His photographs were, for decades, the only depictions of Eastern life known to the Western world.
“It is thanks to these photographs that Westerners discovered traditional Japan, that was until this date closed to foreigners,” Grégory Bacou, an associate at Librairie le Feu Follet said. “They are also the last testimonies of a traditional culture which disappeared with the arrival of Europeans on the island.”
The superb original photograph album, the first published in Japan at the start of the Meiji period, contains 99 large format photographs (over 8-by-10 inches), all full-length portraits, printed during the period on albumen paper.
Felice Beato, "Native types," Photograph AlbumCOURTESY OF LIBRAIRIE LE FEU FOLLET
Additional period artistic flourish was given each photo.
“These photographs taken by Beato were then handed to painters who worked in his workshop,” Bacou said. “The artists would apply watercolor on the photographs by hand using traditional Japanese painting techniques. Therefore, several photographs are enriched with real miniatures (fans, flowers, fabrics).”
Librairie le Feu Follet is not aware of another copy in as good a condition or as complete as the one it is putting up for sale anywhere in Europe or in the United States outside of a copy possessed by the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
If you’ve never attended a book fair, Bacou says you are missing out.
The Fair is truly a unique experience because it is the backroom of museums and great private collections. Visitors will be the first to discover future museum pieces. The Fair is indeed a place where curators of the greatest museums and universities as well as private collectors seek the finest pieces of their collections. Some objects like this Beato album are almost never displayed due to their fragility and rarity.”