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Pair of Folding Screens Showing the Arrival of Portuguese Merchants in Japan

ca. 1625

Portuguese merchants landed in Japan in 1543 and soon chose the port of Nagasaki as their trading base. Their interest in the archipelago was connected not only with the importation of rare goods but also with their role as mediators between the Spaniards in the Philippines and the regional powers of China and India. The economic and cultural meeting of these worlds gave rise to hybrid objects referred to in Japan as namban, from naban-jin, “southern barbarians”, the disparaging local term for Westerners. First produced in Kyoto around the beginning of the 17th century, these namban screens soon became fashionable for the exoticism of the foreigners depicted. The arrival of these strangely clad, bearded Westerners made a deep impression in Japan, and painted screens like these became typical status symbols for the commercial elite of the port cities. These two carefully composed items in an excellent state of preservation each present a clear and vivid scene with a vessel, first being loaded at a wharf in an imaginary foreign country, possibly China, and then unloading its cargo in the port of Nagasaki on the west coast of Kyushu, the southernmost of the four main islands of the archipelago.

Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi/ Photo: Thierry Ollivier

Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi/ Photo: Thierry Ollivier

Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi/ Photo: Thierry Ollivier

Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi/ Photo: Thierry Ollivier

Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi/ Photo: Thierry Ollivier

Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi/ Photo: Thierry Ollivier

Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi/ Photo: Thierry Ollivier

Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi/ Photo: Thierry Ollivier

Title: Pair of Folding Screens Showing the Arrival of Portuguese Merchants in Japan
Geography: Asia
Date: ca. 1625
Medium: ink, colours, gold and gold leaf on paper
Classification: graphic arts (drawing, painting, engraving, calligraphy)
Dimensions: 171 x 376.8 x 2 cm (each)
Inventory number: LAD 2015.018.001 and LAD 2015.018.002
Contact for images: [email protected]
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