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Screens of European Kings and Knights
NMHC_A2ha0051
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

Since 1614, the Tokugawa Shogunate strictly prohibited the diffusion of the Christian religion and Western learning in general. By the middle of the century, all the missionaries had been expelled from Japan. As a precious example of the Christian relics, this folding screen should inevitably be called a masterpiece which was born from the cultural exchange between Japanese and Europeans during that time. Ryuji HIRAOKA and Kenji KUBO, curator, Nagasaki.

History of the Object
This pair of folding screens descended from the feudal lord family in Shonai region, present-day Tsuruoka. Since it is most probable that they were drawn at the Jesuit seminary in Nagasaki from 1612-1614, they are especially valuable as one of the few examples which prove the first introduction of the Western art of painting to the “Christian century” Japan (1549-1650). We have only 12 panels extant in these screens but judging from the numbers inscribed on the back, more seemed to have existed when they were first made. The figures and the background in each panel display the use of Western perspective and shading technique, which could not be seen in the traditional Japanese painting method. The estimated creation period of this work is 1612-1614, since (1) a comparative study shows that one of the figures is copied from the European engraving, T and C. Galle et al., “The life of St. Ignatius Loyola”, which was first published in 1610. As it usually took two years for the European ships to come to Japan in those days, the original engravings must have arrived at Nagasaki on and after 1612, which is the terminus a quo of this work, (2) the Tokugawa Shogunate strictly banned the diffusion of Christianity and destroyed all the churches and seminaries in Nagasaki in 1614, which is the terminus ad quem. The “IHS” emblem, which can be seen in the shield on the desk in one of the panels, reinforces that this work is of Jesuit origin.

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Type
Drawing 
Materials
color on paper, mounted on a pair of folding screens 
Measurements
123cm × 51 cm ×12 pieces (2 screens) 
Creator name
Jesuit painting school in Nagasaki 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
Japan; Nagasaki 
Geography
Japan 
Time period
AD 17th century ~ AD 17th century 
Creation date
17th Century; 1612-1614 
Function
 
Acquisition
These screens, once known as “Teio-zu (Screens of Kings)”, were owned by the Sakai family, the former feudal lord family in Shonai region. Being missing temporarily after World War II and rediscovered in 1985, they were finally purchased by the Nagasaki prefecture for the collection of Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum. Now preserved in Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture. 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan 
Museum
Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture 
Credit line
Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture, Nagasaki, Japan 

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