Vincenzo Ragusa (8 July 1841–13
May 1927) was an Italian sculptor who lived in Meiji period Japan from
Japanese Woman by Ragusa, 1881,
at Tokyo National Museum
He introduced European techniques in bronze casting
, and new methods of modeling
in wood, clay, plaster and wire armatures
which exerted a significant
role in the development of the modern Japanese sculptural
the Technical Fine Arts School (Kobu Bijutsu Gakko, later
part of the University of Technology and later the Tokyo Institute of
Technology), an art school of
painting and sculpture, was founded in Tokyo under the
supervision of the Ministry of Industry.
This was the first governmental art school
founded in Japan. Special emphasis was placed on sculptural art, as
the number of applicants was far less than that for painting. With
the waning popularity of Buddhism
early Meiji period, traditional sculptural art had fallen into
disfavor, and was surviving in minor arts such as architectural
, and ivory-work
Upon recommendation of the Italian Minister to Tokyo, Conte
, the Meiji government
contracted three Italian
artists as foreign advisors
Vincenzo Ragusa (1841–1927) for sculpture, Antonio Fontanesi
(1818–1882) for drawing
and Giovanni Cappelletti
1885) for the preparatory course. These individuals greatly
influenced the development of Japanese
and architecture through the next several decades.
acceptance of teachers in art from Italy alone was based on the
unofficial government policy of accepting military advice from
France, industrial advice from
Great Britain, agricultural advice from the United States, and legal/medical advice from Germany.
born outside of Palermo, Sicily in 1841. Before entering
military service at the age of twenty, he studied drawing and
ivory-carving; but later after he resumed his artistic career, he
won the highest prize at the art exhibition held in Milan in
Three years later, when the competitive exhibition
which was to choose a sculptor to be sent to Japan was held, Ragusa
was the winner.
Career in Japan
lectured in French and was
interpreted by an official of the Foreign
The curricula at the Technical Fine Arts
School consisted of perspective
drawing, copying of
paintings and making plaster models, still-life and life. His
students included Takeuchi
also had his own studio in his residence in Mita, Tokyo, and
produced many portrait sculptures of notable people, actors and
common people during his seven years in Japan.
recognition of his services, Ragusa was received in audience by
in February 1879.
Ragusa renewed his contract in 1879 for a second six-year term, but
the Technical Fine Art School closed in January 1883 due to
financial difficulties and a strengthening of public opinion
towards preservation of Japanese traditional culture. Ragusa left Japan in
August 1882, taking with him a large collection of Japanese and Chinese
art; this collection is now maintained by the Museo Prestorico
Chierchieriano in Rome.
was honored with the Order of
the Rising Sun
(Fifth Class) in June 1884.
Japanese Actor by Vincenzo
Ragusa, University Museum of the Tokyo National University of Fine
Arts and Music
Ragusa brought a Japanese lacquer
named Kiyohara Einosuke with him to Italy, along with Einosuke's
wife (who was skilled in embroidery
their daughter Tamayo (or Tama, see Kiyohara Tama
Upon his return to Italy, Ragusa opened the Scuola Superiore d'Arte
in Palermo, and employed Kiyohara and his wife as
instructors attempting to introduce Japanese lacquer techniques to
Italian art students. The attempt failed due to difficulties in
obtaining the necessary raw materials, and Kiyohara and his wife
returned to Japan after six years. However, they left behind their
daughter Tamayo, who married Ragusa later in 1889. She adopted the
name of Mrs. Eleonora Ragusa.
Ragusa died in Palermo in 1927 at the age of 86. In October 1933,
his widow returned to Japan, after staying more than half a century
in Italy. She died in 1939.
Sixteen of Ragusa's works were given to the Imperial Art School in
Tokyo by Kiyohara Tama on her return to Japan in 1933. They are kept in the
University Art Museum of the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and
Music. Other works, including a "Statue of Napoleon I" which was made at the order
of the Imperial family,
remain in the Imperial Household.
Although his works rarely bear a signature
or date, the portrait statue "Miss Tama Kiyohara" is known with
certainty to be dated 1878, as the sitter was seventeen years old
at the time.
- Mason, Penelope. History of Japanese Art. Prentice
Hall (2001). ISBN 0131176021
- Sadao Tsuneko, et al. Discovering the Arts of Japan: A
Historical Overview. Oxford University Press (2003). ISBN
- Yamada, Chisaburo. Japanese Modern Art. Monumenta
Nipponica, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Jul., 1940), pp. 567-578