An image of The arrival of the Portuguese

KanĂ´ School

(Japan  – )

The arrival of the Portuguese

Lower Asian gallery
Further information

The first Westerners to reach the shores of Japan were Portuguese seamen who, on route to their regular trading posts in South-east Asia, were blown off course in 1542. Subsequently the Portuguese established trading posts in Japan (initially in Nagasaki), and the arrival of these strange people with their odd clothes and seemingly invincible ships naturally caused immense curiosity among the Japanese. These new and unexpected arrivals were known as 'namban', 'southern barbarians', as they always arrived in Japan from the south. Their presence, and the Japanese fascination with these exotic commercial itinerants, gave rise to a whole artistic genre. This beautiful and atmospheric screen was originally one of a pair. It is an exceptional example of this relatively rare genre, combining the classic Japanese sensitivity to seasonal moods, and the abstract stylisation of the Japanese decorative instinct. The screen illustrates an ascending hierarchy from left to right; beginning with the group of three servants, one of whom is holding a dog on a leash. In the centre is a senior member of the ship's crew, and on the right the captain-major.

Art Gallery Handbook, 1999. pg. 270.

Place of origin
Japan: Edo (Tokugawa) period 1615–1868
Japan: Momoyama period 1573–1615
late 16th century-early 17th century
single six-panel screen; ink and colours on gold-leafed paper
152.0 x 369.0 cm image; 152.0 x 370.2 cm screen
Signature & date

l.r., in Japanese ink "[artist's seal]". Not dated.

Purchased 1996
Accession number