Paul Jacoulet was born in 1896 in Paris, but lived in Japan almost all his life. He was one of the few Westerners to master the art of woodblock printing, attaining respect in the art world, including Japan, for his complex designs and his printing techniques which combined traditional ukiyo-e ones and those he developed himself. Collectors of his artworks include Queen Elizabeth II, General Douglas MacArthur and Greta Garbo, among many others. We've included a photograph of the artist, looking very French in his dashing beret.
This woodblock print is entitled "The Jades, Manchuria" and is one of his most popular pre-World War II works. The courtesan's black robe, her elaborate headdress and her beautiful, jewel-encrusted nail file all set against a richly patterned background (be sure to look for the dragon) create a dramatic and colorful portrait. The title is a sly play on words, in that "jade'' is an antiquated word for a woman of ill repute (it translates to "hussy" in French) and the woman is bedecked in jade jewelry and hair ornaments while using jade to file her long nails.
The size of the initial large print was 15 3/8 inches by 11 1/4 inches. This edition is one of Jacoulet's Surimono** prints, which he issued both as smaller sized versions of some of his larger prints and also as original works. They were printed with the same number of blocks as the larger ones and were issued during the Christmas season. They are often called Jacoulet's "Christmas card prints" since he gave many as Christmas presents, while using the money from their sales to build houses for his woodblock carvers.
The sight size of this print is 3 5/8 inches by 5 1/2 inches; the framed measurements are 7 1/4 inches by 9 inches. The frame is gold painted wood with a concave inset of black silk shantung. On the reverse, there is a panel of thin wood with the label of the Minato Trading Company in Yokohama. The surrounding paper is stamped with a date of December 3, 1957, probably brought to the U.S. after the War as a souvenir or received as a gift, perhaps from Jacoulet himself.
Although the backing paper is torn, there is chipping on the frame and the fabric on the lower left corner is separating slightly and has a small stain, we have left everything intact for authenticity. The print has Paul Jacoulet's signature stamped center right with his red boat seal stamped beneath (hard to see on the similarly colored background, but it's there.) The gold fillet is obscuring the printed inscription at the bottom of the print, which reads "Les Jades: Mandchoukuo" (the title in French) on the left and "Paul Jacoulet" on the right. If we were ever going to have this reframed, we would preserve the date stamp and the Minato label and uncover the inscriptions at the bottom.
Highly collectible and undeniably beautiful, this Paul Jacoulet woodblock print is a treasure.
**Surimono is a Japanese woodblock print term that literally means "printed things." They are prints that are privately issued and distributed, usually produced in small numbers. They were often used as greeting cards or framed as gifts, as Paul Jacoulet used many of his Surimono.
>>>We have another Paul Jacoulet woodblock print, identically framed, entitled "Snowy Night, Korea," available here: