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Seeking information: Vernon Heath and the Japanese embassy of 1862

Does anyone have information about British photographer Vernon Heath (1819–1895), and specifically about the photographs he made of members of the diplomatic mission from Japan who visited London in 1862? I have information (but no confirmation) that the date these photographs were made was June 11, 1862, and that Christie's sold a lot of Heath's Japan photographs in 1998. I do not know where those photographs ended up, or whether Heath made mention of photographing the Japanese in his 1892 biography, "Recollections" or elsewhere. I have seen three examples of these photographs, two of which I know are in a museum in the U.S., but would like to find other examples and learn the total number taken. As we are trying to include this information in a book going to press soon, and it is difficult to access English-language archives from here in Japan, any assistance would be much appreciated.

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Comment by Alice Gordenker on May 15, 2017 at 1:00

Thank you, John Leigh Calder for this information.

Comment by John Leigh Calder on May 14, 2017 at 19:09
Hi, my Great Great Grandfather was photographed by Vernon Heath in London 1862/63 he was a very famous Maori Chief called Kamariera Te Hautakiri Wharepapa you can google the photo he and group of New Zealand Maori Chiefs and Maidens were chosen in 1862 to be the first Maori people to come to England and meet Queen Victoria you can just look up ( Wharepapa )
Comment by Alice Gordenker on May 9, 2014 at 13:44

Dear Anthony, Yes, I did. Forgive me, please for having forgotten to reply. The Caldesi portrait is very, very interesting because the studio setting appears to be very different from the plain background in the portraits with Heath's stamp on the back. That, combined with the information Michael Pritchard sent ("I have checked Photographic News for 1862 and only found this reference..exhibited at the London Photographic Society 'to some portraits of the Japanese Ambassadors, by Coldesi, exhibited by Mr. Kater' (6 June 1862, p275).") would seem to refute Heath's claim that the Japanese didn't sit for any other photographers in England.Thank you both very much for this information.

Comment by Anthony Hamber on May 9, 2014 at 12:12

Dear Alice.  Did you get the URL I sent you linking to a Caldesi portrait and associated details?


Anthony Hamber


Comment by Alice Gordenker on May 8, 2014 at 0:25

Izaak, thank you very much. I knew they were also photographed in the Netherlands and also in St. Petersburg, but didn't have the particulars so your information is very helpful. I am in touch with the curator at the Pitt Rivers Museum, who has done considerable research on their very impressive set of the Potteau photographs. We are including them in our book. Clearly the Japanese, in their kimono and swords and top-knot hairstyles, were fascinating subjects for photographers in 1862.

Comment by Izaak Boone on May 7, 2014 at 21:36

After England this embassy went to visit Hollland. They were photographed in The Hague,Holland by the court photographer Robert Severin. They also were photographed in the Hague by the lady photographer Maria Hille. The Dutch Royal Archives held these pictures. There are also some pictures in the collection of the Printroom (Prentenkabinet) of Leiden University. 

For some copies of the portraits taken by Potteau: the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford has some examples in its collection.

Comment by Anthony Hamber on May 6, 2014 at 16:19
Comment by Alice Gordenker on May 6, 2014 at 13:35

Thank you, Paula. Yes, all information helps.

Comment by Paula Fleming on May 6, 2014 at 13:19

The JPS, vol. 8 #122, June 16, 1862, p. 77 notes:  "The Japanese Ambassadors, on the Day Previous to their Leaving england, honored Mr. Bernon heath with a sitting."  Hope this helps.

Comment by Alice Gordenker on May 6, 2014 at 3:20

Many, many thanks for the lead to the British Newspaper Archive. In the Morning Post on Saturday June 14, 1862, Heath placed two advertisements. The second read: "JAPANESE AMBASSADORS- Their excellencies honoured Mr. VERNON HEATH with a SITTING at his Photographic studio, 43, Piccadilly on the 11th, instr., for the only Portraits taken of them in this country. Copies will be at once published." ("inst." is an abbreviation for "instante mense" meaning "this month." This would seem to confirm the information I had that the sitting was on June 11, 1862. I will continue working on this, including looking for copies of these photographs and information about how many members of the mission were photographed, etc.

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