[Japan and Western Medicine.] Oranda jin Geka ryoji no zu [Dutch Surgery in Nagasaki]. Original pen, ink and watercolor drawing on light brown-toned silk, with 4 vertical lines of Japanese characters in the upper left corner. Japan: late 18th or early 19th century]. 483 x 363 mm., mounted as a scroll at a modern date on light grey silk backed with paper, with a half-round hanging rail (with braided ribbon attached) at the top and a suspension bar at the foot, measuring 914 x 443 mm. overall; preserved in a custom-made wooden box. A few tiny pinholes in upper corners of image, but fine, with the coloring fresh and bright.
This striking image, showing an amputation carried out by a Dutch surgeon in Japan, was most likely painted in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century, during Japan’s self-imposed period of national isolation. The hand-painted image is related, but by no means identical to a Nagasaki woodblock print titled “Surgery by a Dutch Physician,” one of many popular souvenir prints depicting scenes unique to Nagasaki, which at the time was the sole point of contact between Japan and the outside world. (See our reproduction of the print). It may be that our scroll is the original of the image; however, it is also possible that both hand-painted and woodcut versions of the image were produced simultaneously.
Western surgery came to Japan in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries via the Portuguese, who in 1543 became the first Europeans to make direct contact with Japan, and the Dutch, who became the only European nation allowed to trade with Japan after Japan’s expulsion of the Portuguese in 1639. Surgeons attached to the Dutch East India Company established practices at the island of Dejima in Nagasaki Bay, which led to the formation of several Japanese schools of surgery based on European methods. “This aspect of Western medicine, known as K m -ry geka or ‘Surgery of the Red-Haired,’ has had a profound effect on the development of surgical practice in Japan” (Van Gulik, p. 37). Van Gulik, “Dutch surgery in Japan,” in Red-Hair Medicine: Dutch-Japanese Medical Relations, ed. Beukers et al., pp. 37-50.
Book Id: 44211