Home‎ > ‎Artists‎ > ‎Utagawa Yoshitaki (1841-1899)‎ > ‎

Police Confront Man in Black Makeup from the Shinbun zue


Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Police Confront Man in Black Makeup

from the Shinbun zue

by Utagawa Yoshitaki, 1875

IHL Cat. #311

About This Print

At the top left of this "news nishiki-e" is a red cartouche held aloft by two cherubs containing the name of the Osaka illustrated newspaper Shinbun zue 新聞圖會.  There are two versions of this print that are differentiated by the re-carving of the red cartouche containing the newspaper's name and the addition of the number 39 (三十九号) to the cartouche, as shown below. 

In this print, two policemen startle a man wearing black makeup (黒塗り) who fell asleep after getting drunk at a banquet and cannot remember much of anything. 

Waseda University Library notes:

Waseda University Library
detail of banners
Waseda print left
this collection's print right.

For a summary of the brief life of nishiki-e shinbun (newspaper color woodblock prints) see the article Nishiki-e shinbun and Newspapers in Meiji Japan.

This installation features more than 30 loans from two remarkably rich local resources, the Lavenberg Collection of Japanese Prints, and the Lee & Mary Jean Michels Collection. It was co-curated by Professors Akiko Walley (History of Art and Architecture) and Glynne Walley (East Asian Languages and Literatures) and JSMA Chief Curator Anne Rose Kitagawa. QR codes on selected labels allow visitors to access translations and explanations of the complex wordplay, imagery, and cultural context of these fascinating objects.


UTAGAWAYoshitaki (歌川芳滝,1841-1899)

Japanese;Meiji period, 1875

Police Confront Man in Black Makeup from the NewsIllustrated (Shinbun zue)

Ukiyo-e woodblock-printed “brocade newspaper” (shinbun nishiki-e) in vertical chūban format; ink and color on paper

TheLavenberg Collection of Japanese Prints, IHL.0311

This printrelates an amusing case of mistaken identity. A policeman on rounds found ahouse with its door open. Peering inside he was attacked by a creature with ablack face and foul breath who accused him of trying to rob the house. Aftersome back-and-forth it turned out that the creature was the homeowner. He hadengaged in a drunken game of rock-scissors-paper, and for losing had to painthis face with ink, then went home and passed out. He apologized to thepoliceman and was let off with a warning.

Translation of text on print:

A patrolman was doing his rounds atmidnight in Takatsu-chō 5, 12th small ward, 2nd largeward. He saw a house whose door had been left open, so he stopped to have alook, thinking a thief might have sneaked in. Then he heard a voice, like atiger or a wolf snoring, so he went inside. Something with a pitch-black faceand glittering eyes tried to grab him. Its breath was so foul that the patrolmancould hardly face it. He cried out, “Are you a fox or a tanuki? Do you not recognize a policeman?” But the blackfacedcreature itself shouted, “You’re a thief pretending to be a policeman.” Theangry voice was using speech, to the patrolman brought his corporal toinvestigate. The corporal was just as astonished at the blackfaced creature,but when he looked closely he saw it was the master of the house. Puzzled, heasked why the man’s face was black. At last the man remembered and apologizedfor his rudeness. “Last night I was invited to a drinking party at myneighbor’s house. Under the influence we painted our faces black and beganplaying rock-paper-scissors. I simply could not beat my opponent, and in theend my face was completely covered with soot. I came home like that, but Iremember nothing more. I must have gone to sleep with the door open. All ofthis happened because I drank so much,” he said. The matter was let go with anapology, according to the Ōsaka News. Oh, how important it is to drink only inmoderation! Self control is the key!

(Glynne Walley, Associate Professor of East Asian Languages& Literatures)

Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 Title or Description Police confront man in black makeup
 Newspaper Shinbun zue 新聞圖會 [新聞図会]
 Artist  Utagawa Yoshitaki (1841-1899)
 Signature Sasaki Yoshitaki 笹木芳瀧 
 Seal  not sealed
 Writer of Text
 Sasaki Yoshitaki 笹木芳瀧
 Publication Date 1875
 Publisher Yaoya Zensuke (seal name Yaozen han 八尾善版) - obliterated on this print due to paper wear in lower right corner [Marks: pub. ref. 617; seal ref. similar to 25-470]
 Carver Hori Seishichi? 彫政七 - carver's seal obliterated on this print due to paper wear in lower right corner 
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition fair- thinning and rubbing obliterating rectangular cartouches bottom right;  not backed
 Genre ukiyo-e; nishiki-e shinbun
 Format vertical chuban
 H x W Paper
 9 5/8 x 7 in. (24.4 x 17.8 cm)

 Collections This Print
 Kanagawa University LibraryWaseda University Library 10 8069 32