Search This Blog & Get A Rife

Friday, April 27, 2018

Matchbox Labels Of Japan - Part 6

Hello... for whatever reason, I don't have the time today to do the full expose of a subject, and instead offer up the next best thing, a look at some wonderful artwork done for matchbox labeling.

Yes, it's my go to subject when I'm pinched for time, but hopefully you'll like like today's subject matter: people.

I admit it's not as weird as the ones I have subjected upon you previously, but I just think the subject matter is quite bizarre when all the image is conveying is the name of the match maker, where the matches are from, and hence that explains why the artwork has a Japanese feel to it.

If these match label artwork is really for a Japanese audience (it's not), why all the English?

It's merely an expression of art that depicts a more "mysterious" side of Japan that people outside of it in th1880s-1920s would still find intriguing enough to want to pick up.

I love this scene depicting two men in a komai-innu (Korean lion dog) costume at a matsuri (festival). I have a netsuke made of ivory that depicts pretty much the same thing, where if you look through the creature's mouth you can see a tiny part of a face. I suppose this is for the Japanese market, however.
Kindda boring, but the art shows a well-to-do man in a yukata (male kimono) with a regal-looking pet beside him. My first instinct is to say it's a dog. Interesting that the man has very slanted eyes.
Just a simple scene of two young women at hanami (cherry blossom viewing) party. I assume that because the girl seem to be laying food on a table... or the one of the left is for her lady on the right - and five red/pink flowers blow in the air. In the background, we see a lovely waterfall, and two figures in a covered walkway also observing the beauty of the nature scene.
I have no idea just what it is about Japan and monkeys. It's not like monkeys are all over the place... I'm not even sure if I saw one over three years, because most of the Japanese live in cities, towns and villages where nature has been beaten down. The scene here is playful. I love that the monkey sits ATOP the frame of the young girls carrying fruits, as he bucks formal artistic convention trying to interfere with the girl's progress.
I'll be honest... I'm not sure just what the polygon the face is upon is supposed to represent. I'm pretty sure it's one of the Japanese Luck Gods... but what is that background? Is it a fan?
Another Japanese Luck God? Or merely an old man and a crane. The bird is a representation of good fortune.. or happiness... or health... of which the smiling old man seems to possess.
This is an interesting bit of artwork... not only do we see an old-school Japanese baby bottle, but we see the two cute puppies begging to get some milk, too. Awwww... babies and puppies.
This looks like a modern art version (from the 1930s?) of a famous ukiyo-e woodblock print I saw from maybe 100 years present... the colors are wrong (according to my memory), but it sure does look familiar...
What? A nude woman? Gimmee that matchbox! For some this was their Sears catalog selling women's bras... in the days before free internet porn.Obviously it depicts an artist's nude model - hence the paint brushes in the foreground.
A 1920's/1930s matchbox label depicting a classy woman having a cocktail, with a map showing just where you might find her... including the train line (black and white blocks).
Another advertisement from the 1920s or 30s... is it a department story? Probably. Why can't I read Japanese?!Still, while the art looks quite simplistic, it is quite stylish. Look at how the nose is drawn to create facial separation where the woman's face now looks like it could belong to two different women. Plus the colors! That fur around her shoulder's actually has definition!
I'm pretty sure the hairstyle shown here is of the early 1920s... the art style evokes a French/European memory. But what is the most striking feature? Is it the robe? The hair? What's hidden behind the robe? The red lipstick? Or is it the fact that the only facial feature she has are the lips... and a jaw defined by a simple red line. Wow. I can't draw to save your life, so if that need ever arises, I'm sorry.
I'm not an expert in dance, but when I look at this, all I see is a ballet dancer lifting her arms in a graceful, swan-like pose. I have spent much of my 30s watching dancers, but not ones in tutu's.
More matchbox label art depicting an ad for a restaurant - Takeya, as we see the waitress bring your order to your extremely low table. The art style seems late 1930s... judging by the hair... but I'm no expert in that either. The art does show off a very long neck. Some people believe that women with long neck are more "sexy"... the swan-like appearance is meant to convey gracefulness and balance. I just read that somewhere a few years ago. Look at all of the so-called beautiful people of Hollywood, and see if they have a long neck.

This art deco-looking matchbox label art depicts Mt. Fuji on the right, at a time in Japan mean one could probably see the magic mountain from the Tokyo-area Ueno team room called Spider. Why would anyone call their tea room "Spider"... I get the creeps just thinking about that.
Okay... despite the thing in the bottom right corner that looks like the date of 1884, it's not. That's an area code of some sort... or maybe a telephone number. The fashion style and woman's haircut place this scene at around 1923 when The Charleston song was huge. BUT... it's not like you can dance The Charleston with a partner, let alone a giant cat, who seems to have rhythm.... but what is obvious is that western fashion is a huge influence in Japan. I'm still not sure why cat's are.

Andrew Joseph
PS: This still took me 90 minutes to create... so much for quick and easy.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Andrew, reader from Malaysia. Love your writing. Would like to point out a small interesting funny detail on the first matchbox of Korean lion dog. The Chinese character below (read right to left) translates to "Those that counterfeits the brand, male work as thief, female work as prostitute". A common chinese curse and insult reserved for most undesired people.