A singer and musicians, Japan, 1863-1864.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Engraving based on a photograph, from 'Zhivopisnaia Iaponiia', (St Petersburg, 1870), a Rusian translation of 'Le Japon illustree' ('Japan illustrated'), (Paris, 1870) by Swis diplomat Aime Humbert (1819-1900) who spent two years in Japan from 1863 to 1864. Humbert surveyed all aspects of Japanese cultural life including its music. Here, female musicians play traditional Japanese stringed instruments, with a decorated screen behind. In the foreground is tea-making equipment. As Envoy Extraordinary Minister Plenipotentiary for Switzerland, Humbert travelled to areas inaccesible to the ordinary person. The text illustrates and discuses the life, customs and activities of the Japanese, before the influence of foreign powers.