Bronze-Cleaners by Mortimer Menpes. 1901. Watercolor. Source: Japan: A Record in Colour, facing p. 172. "Every day," says Menpes, "we wandered about the streets trying to discover the best operators in metal, wood, and bronze to work for me; and in a very short time we had gathered together a bevy of excellent associates, each thoroughly proficient in his own particular direction" (158).

The bronze-workers were the ones who brought home to him the particular dislike of craftsmen for making endless copies of the same design:

I actually ordered a hundred electric-light fittings — fairy-like lamps daintily wrought in bronze, of which they had made me a model — but they refused me point-blank, and the only way to get them at all was by asking a dozen at a time, and by arranging that each dozen should be varied in some slight respect. It was the same with my picture frames... [163-64]

Menpes and his companion Inchie spent a good deal of time with the bronze-workers, and Menpes was amused by the tales they told about other European buyers. Apparently, genuine Japanese traditional work was too simple and refined for such buyers' crude taste, so the bronze-workers produced more elaborate work for them, ageing it artificially and asking large sums for it. Menpes knew that everything he bought, made in front of his very eyes, was authentic. Here, Menpes has adopted his darker style, so that the bronze gleams almost mysteriously, the gleams partially illuminating the workers' faces. — Jacqueline Banerjee

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Menpes, Dorothy. Japan: A Record in Colour. London: Adam & Charles Black, 1901. Internet Archive version of a copy in the University of California Libraries. Web. 5 July 2019.

Created 5 July 2019