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Isabella Stewart Gardner - Travel Album: Japan, Volume I, 1883

Isabella Stewart Gardner (New York, 1840 - 1924, Boston)

Travel Album: Japan, Volume I, 1883

Bound album including collected photographs, found papers, pressed botanicals, and pen and ink annotations , 12 9/16 x 10 9/16 x 1 7/8 in. (31.9 x 26.8 x 4.8 cm)


Isabella Stewart Gardner kept thorough records of her travels in the form of travel albums. Isabella and her husband visited Japan in 1883, where they traveled for months along already-well-worn tourist pathways. Japan had a long history of domestic tourism, and by the 1870s European and American travelers—referred to as “globetrotters” by Japanese people—were a common sight along these routes. Photographs like the ones Gardner purchased and pasted in this album were part of the Japanese tourist experience, both for domestic and international visitors.Many photographers active in nineteenth-century Japan were European and specifically created images catering to foreign tourists’ conceptions of Japan as an exotic space. Page 29 shows typical subjects, including a temple and a tattooed laborer. A close examination reveals that many of the tattoos were in fact painted on the photograph after the fact. This is unsurprising given that tattoos were outlawed for Japanese citizens in 1872.