Paul Jacoulet was born in Paris either in 1896 or 1902 (sources vary). He moved to Japan with his parents at age 4, his father was a teacher at the Tokyo University. Young Paul was often in poor health, but developed skills in drawing, music and languages, he spoke Japanese, French and English fluently. He began painting at age 11. Jacoulet took many subjects for his prints from trips to the South Sea, Korea and Manchuria beginning in 1929, making sketches and taking photographs. He created his first woodblock print in 1934, working with professional Japanese carvers and printers. His technical requirements were very high, and he would only work with the best. Jacoulet published most of his prints himself, sold in a subscription scheme, so the amount of copies of each print was small. For his prints he used special watermarked papers from Kyoto. He used very elaborate techniques, including embossing, lacquers, micas, metal pigments, and experimented with new techniques like powdered semi-precious gems. For some prints he said he used as many as 300 color blocks, but Jacoulet had a reputation for exaggeration. One of his assistants later remembered they used up to 60 blocks, still a lot. One site says he made a total of 166 designs, another lists 178, so there’s some dispute on that. After the war his work became famous worldwide. Among his admirers was American General Douglas MacArthur, in charge of the U.S. occupation of Japan. Jacoulet continued to produce prints in Japan until his death in 1960.
These Jacoulet prints are two of five made in 1942 known as the “Bat” or “Manchurian Princesses” series, the only ones produced during World War Two. The titles are “La Confidente” and “Avant L’Audience.” Each is signed in pencil and stamped in red with the “bat” stamp, both are numbered on the back in red, “No. 143/150.”
My mom received them from her Aunt Olive Baker about ten years ago. The prints were given to Olive and Leland Baker by Mrs. Pat (Nancy) Echols in 1976. Colonel Marion Patton Echols and his wife Nancy were stationed in Japan during the occupation of Japan following World War Two. Colonel Echols was General MacArthur’s public relations officer at that time. (A memorial biography of Colonel Echols can be found on the West Point Academy website.) Aunt Olive told my mother that Nancy Echols tutored the children of Emperor Hirohito and was given these prints as a gift from the emperor’s family. We have no documents to corroborate that. I believe the prints were unframed when given to the Bakers, as they had them framed in Virginia in 1979.
If you’re interested in having a look at the auctions, where much larger images can be seen, the links are below. I enjoyed researching these beautiful works of art.