Unpinning History : Japanese Posters in the Age of Commercialism, Imperialism, and Modernism

Ōsaka Shōsen Kabushiki Kaisha [Goddess on horseback]

This advertisement designed by Machida Ryūyō for the Japanese shipping company, Ōsaka Shōsen Kabushiki Kaisha, exemplifies one way in which yōga (Western-style painting) artists often honored traditional Japanese aesthetic values, by infusing their works with visual metaphors. The poster was produced during a time of increased internationalization and expansionism, during which Japan aimed to establish itself as a respected and powerful nation with a long-established and culturally rich history. This endeavor is reflected in the figure of the goddess, who is rendered with idealized Eastern features and riding five stallions into the ocean, while wearing an ornate Nara-period (710-794) dress. Her iconography recalls Japan’s cultural past, while the horses may be interpreted as representing the five continents, perhaps together symbolizing Japan as a mighty nation galloping into the global market. Enclosed at the bottom is the information of O.S.K., including its capital and the liners that the company provides. (Sophie Ceniza and Lilith Coryell Jenkins)

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