Title of Oral/Poster Presentation

Exploring the Implications of Authenticity in a Museum Setting: Study of a Utamaro print at the USU Museum of Anthropology

Class

Article

College

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Faculty Mentor

Molly Cannon

Presentation Type

Poster Presentation

Abstract

Recently the USU Museum of Anthropology received a Japanese print featuring a design called Mayu-Hiki by artist Kitagawa Utamaro. The piece came with very little provenance and required research to discover where the print came from and, particularly, whether or not it was an original printing. To determine provenance, I utilized digital archives of verified original Utamaro pieces from museums and auction houses. I discovered an original Mayu-Hiki print curated at Sotheby's (an art auction house) for comparison with the USU Museum of Anthropology’s print. The USU print is missing certain markings and is printed on significantly newer paper than the original. The comparison confirmed that the Mayu-Hiki print in the USU Museum of Anthropology is not an original printing of Utamaro, but may be a reproduction, later printing or potentially an imitation. Current efforts are being made to translate writing in the margins and trace a red ensignia present on the USU copy back to the printer. The piece is believed to have been purchased in Japan during WWII by a soldier who brought it back to the U.S. More information is needed on the printer to determine when and how the piece was made. Even though the print is not an authentic Utamaro, it still has educational value. Using the print as a focal point, the museum can entice discussions on authenticity, tourist objects, and the movement of cultural property in addition to discussions on the print subject matter and the artist himself.

Location

The South Atrium

Start Date

4-12-2018 9:00 AM

End Date

4-12-2018 10:15 AM

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Apr 12th, 9:00 AM Apr 12th, 10:15 AM

Exploring the Implications of Authenticity in a Museum Setting: Study of a Utamaro print at the USU Museum of Anthropology

The South Atrium

Recently the USU Museum of Anthropology received a Japanese print featuring a design called Mayu-Hiki by artist Kitagawa Utamaro. The piece came with very little provenance and required research to discover where the print came from and, particularly, whether or not it was an original printing. To determine provenance, I utilized digital archives of verified original Utamaro pieces from museums and auction houses. I discovered an original Mayu-Hiki print curated at Sotheby's (an art auction house) for comparison with the USU Museum of Anthropology’s print. The USU print is missing certain markings and is printed on significantly newer paper than the original. The comparison confirmed that the Mayu-Hiki print in the USU Museum of Anthropology is not an original printing of Utamaro, but may be a reproduction, later printing or potentially an imitation. Current efforts are being made to translate writing in the margins and trace a red ensignia present on the USU copy back to the printer. The piece is believed to have been purchased in Japan during WWII by a soldier who brought it back to the U.S. More information is needed on the printer to determine when and how the piece was made. Even though the print is not an authentic Utamaro, it still has educational value. Using the print as a focal point, the museum can entice discussions on authenticity, tourist objects, and the movement of cultural property in addition to discussions on the print subject matter and the artist himself.