When Edward Sylvester Morse (1838-1925) met Matsuki Bunkyo (1867-1940): A glimpse into collecting and dealing in late 19th to early 20th-century New England

Third Thursday lecture - Sainsbury Institute

Thursday 17 February, 2022
6:00pm GMT


Professor Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere (Sainsbury Institute)

Online lecture, via Zoom.
50 min lecture followed by Q&A.
Free and open to all, booking essential.
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About the Talk

On 22 June 1888, Matsuki Bunkyo knocked on the door of Edward Sylvester Morse’s residence in Salem Massachusetts. Morse, a famed natural scientist, and Director of the Peabody Academy of Science (from 1992, Peabody Essex Museum) was a well-known academic in both the United States and Japan. A decade earlier, Morse had become fascinated with Japanese ceramics while teaching at Imperial University (University of Tokyo) and was in the process of assembling a major collection of Japanese pottery. Morse recognised in Matsuki a potential intern to help him with his ceramics and sponsored Matsuki to attend Salem High School, the first Japanese national to graduate from the institution. Matsuki in turn helped Morse build his ceramic collection, he married a local Salem woman and then settled in the plot adjacent to Morse’s house, becoming a dealer of East Asian art. Their paths diverged but their stories, publications, and the Japanese art that passed through their hands provide a special window into collecting and dealing practices and Japanese art distribution networks in the United States during the 19th to early 20th century. Prejudice, discrimination, and the complications of being a Japanese American at that period come to the fore and prove to be a corrective to the traditional discourse of Japanism in the USA. This talk is based on research that is still in progress on the E. S. Morse Archive at the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum, Rowley MA.

About the Speaker

Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere, PH.D., is the founding Director and currently the Research Director of the Sainsbury Institute and Professor of Japanese Art and Culture at the University of East Anglia, Norwich. She received her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1998. She published Vessels of Influence: China and the Birth of Porcelain in Medieval and Modern Japan with Bloomsbury Academic in 2012 and translated Professor Tsuji Nobuo’s A History of Art in Japan with Tokyo University Press in 2018.  She was until recently the IFAC Handa Curator of Japanese Art at the Department of Asia, British Museum, and was the lead curator there for the Crafting Beauty in Modern Japan exhibition in 2007 and the Citi Exhibition Manga held in the Sainsbury Exhibition Galleries, British Museum in 2019.

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The Third Thursday Lecture series is funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and Yakult UK.