The Villa I Tatti is currently hosting an online exhibition documenting the long correspondence and scholarly relationship between Yokio Yashiro (1890-1975), a Japanese scholar, and Bernard Berenson. The exhibit seeks to explore Yashiro’s experiences during his several years spent at I Tatti in the 1920s, and Berenson’s impact on the creation of Yashiro’s Institute of Art Research in Tokyo.
Yashiro was presented to Berenson by their mutual friend Laurence Binyon, who in 1921 wrote to Berenson:
I have taken the liberty of giving a letter to you to a young Japanese friend of mine called Yashiro who has just lately gone to Florence. I would not have done so if I hadn’t thought that you would like him & be interested to talk to him…..He has come to Europe to study European art, but hasn’t turned his back on his own. He cares about poetry, too, and in himself he seems to me really charming.
Yashiro and his scholarship is little know outside of Japan, today, save for his monograph on Botticelli, published in English in 1925 and available in its entirety on the exhibition’s website. In it, Yashiro sought to highlight aspects of Botticelli’s paintings that were perceptible to him, but not to his peers, because of the extra-European atmosphere in which he lived. In a 1922 letter to Binyon, Yashiro wrote,
I shall make clear what I, a man brought up in an artistic atmosphere utterly different from that of Europe, feel of Botticelli, that side of Botticelli which, as I think, was never, or perhaps very little, appreciated by European connoisseurs.
The online exhibition features a wealth of materials. The main subject of the exhibition is the years of correspondence between Yashiro and Berenson that lasted until 1959. Alongside the letters, are images of Yashiro and his family, other writings of Yashiro’s, a number of critical sources on both Yashiro and Berenson, and a glossary of important figures.