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Vandyk (active 1881-1943)

Prince Takamatsu of Japan in London 27 - 27 Jun 1930

Gelatin silver print | 31.8 x 20.1 cm (whole object) | RCIN 2905574

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  • On 26 June 1930, Prince Takamatsu Nobuhito (1905–87), younger brother of the Emperor Shōwa, arrived in Britain for a three-day official visit. Accompanying him was Princess Takamatsu Kikuko (1911–2004), granddaughter of the last shōgun, who had married the prince a few months earlier. Not only did their trip form part of a honeymoon world tour, but it also returned the visit made by Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester (1900-1974) for his Garter Mission to Japan the year before.

    In London, the prince and princess were the honoured guests of King George V (1865-1936) at Buckingham Palace for two nights and then guests of the nation at Claridge’s Hotel. Amidst their official engagements, the couple had their portraits taken by Herbert Vandyk, a second-generation court photographer with a studio in close proximity to the palace. Two individual portraits of the prince and princess from this sitting survive in the Royal Collection (for its pair please see RCIN 2905573).

    The prince appears in military attire with the star of the Royal Victorian Order, received upon his arrival at the palace, pinned centrally alongside his star of the Order of the Chrysanthemum. The princess wears an ethereal silk dress, her purse held elegantly on her lap. In keeping with western court conventions, the couple’s wardrobe had been strategically selected to reinforce Japan’s narrative of a reinvented and modernised monarchy: he is represented as a dutiful prince in western-style uniform, she as a dignified woman at the forefront of Parisian fashion.

    Both photographs are undated and, curiously, there is no mention of the photographic session in the detailed records of the couple’s itinerary kept at the Royal Archives. However, the corresponding negative plates in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery bear inscriptions revealing that the portraits were taken on the second day of the couple’s visit. Another negative from the same sitting includes interior details of Buckingham Palace, indicating that the session took place there, rather than at the photographer’s studio. Despite this new evidence, it remains unclear whether Vandyk was commissioned by King George V or Prince Takamatsu. Nevertheless, the fact that each print has been autographed suggests that these two photographs were sent to the king as gifts.

    Text adapted from Japan: Courts and Culture (2020)


    Probably presented to King George V and Queen Mary

  • Medium and techniques

    Gelatin silver print


    31.8 x 20.1 cm (whole object)

  • Category
    Object type(s)