Thursday, August 25, 2011
I also find romance in this collection, though it is achieved quite subtly (as one really could only expect of a man of Hamilton's time and position). Included in Hamilton's assemblage of postcards is a set of twelve hand-tinted Japanese postcards, each depicting a scene in the daily life of a geisha named O-Koto-San. With their English captions these postcards were clearly intended for purchase by visiting English-speakers (in particular the British, as this was during the Anglo-Japanese Alliance). From researching these postcards I discovered that the set consisted of only twelve that Hamilton brought home, and seemed to be a popular souvenir, as one can easily find these same postcards for sale on collectors' websites (though, due to the nature of hand-tinting, there may be differences from set to set).
One could argue that geisha at this time represented a mysterious sort of erotica to visitors, thus explaining the popularity of these postcards to male visitors. Yet, these particular images are not evocative in the slightest (with one possible exception, captioned "While her maid makes ready her bed, O Koto-San indulges in a smoke, and thinks of her soldier lover"). In the most straightforward of terms, these postcards, with their vibrant colors and chaste, posed scenes, appeal a more feminine sensibility, as if their manufacturer knew they would be bought by husbands and taken home to wives. Thus by carefully acquiring each postcard in the set, I think that Hamilton was demonstrating his sensitivity of his wife's tastes, as telling her she was on his mind while he was gone.
Intern, Freer-Sackler Archives