Photograph: Francisco Matias

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On display in the Exhibition(s)
Travelling and Exoticism | Trade and cultural interaction

Name of Object:
Namban Folding Screen (Namban Byobu)
Date of Object:
Attributed to Kano Domi (known as Pedro Kano Gennosuke after his conversion to Christianity, born in Kyoto)
Type of object:
Furnishing that can be included in the Shoheiga category, meaning a large painted architectural surface, including folding screens. In this case, it is more specifically Byobu, meaning a painted folding screen.
Holding Museum:
National Museum of Ancient Art
Lisbon, Portugal
Period of activity:
End of the 16th century, beginning of the 17th century
Museum Inventory Number:
1638; 1639 Mov
Material(s) / Technique(s):
Colour (tempera) on paper and gold leaf on silk; lacquered frame and metal
Place of production:
H: 172.8 cm; l: 380.8 cm; depth 2 cm
Period / Dynasty
Azuchi-Momoyama period
Workshop / Movement:
Kano School (Kanoha)
The Namban Byobu, of which there are more than 70 extant, are some of the most impressive visual testimonies to the way Japanese painters perceived the first Europeans to arrive in Japan. The arrival of the Portuguese in 1543 and their expulsion almost a century later in 1639, gave rise to the so called Namban Bijutsu artwork, a result of the meeting of the Japanese and European cultures.
A pair of six-fold painted screens, they both follow the most current theme of the Namban Byobu, depicting the arrival of the Portuguese in Japan. On the left, the screen depicts a great ship from Macao, or kurofune (“the black ship”), and on the right a procession, or Namban Gyoretsu, passing a Japanese street observed by curious inhabitants. Waiting for them are the Jesuits, whose church is built in the Japanese style with interior rooms that largely follow local models, such as the use of tatami to cover the floor or of shoji to divide the inner space. The daily life of the Jesuit mission is depicted in these byobu (biombo in Portuguese). The works convey their approach to “accommodation”, according to which special attention was paid to the European priests' and brothers' integration into Japanese society.
The procession is composed of a Captain-Major, standing underneath a state parasol surrounded by other officers, as well as sailors, African slaves, Indians and Malays. The ornaments worn by the aristocrats and rich merchants are visible and notable: gold chains, crucifixes and daggers. While the majority of the characters wear bombacha – large baggy trousers used in the East to protect them from mosquitoes, their doublets have buttons, which were unknown to the Japanese, who called them botan from the Portuguese botão. This in itself is an interesting example of linguistic appropriation as a result of newly acquired cultural habits.
These exotic objects, of which much care was taken, included Chinese folding-chairs, lacquered boxes, porcelain, bundles and bales of silk, Persian horses and caged animals. Their different places of origin were the result of Portuguese trade. By the 16th and 17th centuries Portugal had established trade routes along the coastline of the Indian Ocean, the Southern Seas and the China Sea. Some of the traders were born in Asia and many of them were the result of the progressive hybridism that characterised the lives of the Europeans in Asia during the period.
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Current Owner:
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga
Original Owner:
Tadao Takamisawa, António da Costa Carneiro, Portuguese ambassador in Japan
How date and origin were established:
Tadao Takamisawa attributed the paintings to Kano Domi based on stylistic grounds, and thematic and pictorial parallels with other folding screens and works executed by the Kano school of painting, including Kano Naizen's Namban Byobu, also in the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga.
How Object was obtained:
Acquired in the 1930s by Tadao Takamisawa from a daimyo's (Great Lord) castle near Osaka, and later purchased by the Portuguese ambassador –António da Costa Carneiro – in Tokyo. Having belonged to the Ministry of Finance since 1952 it has been on permanent loan to the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga in Lisbon ever since.
Selected bibliography:
Okamoto, Y., The Namban Art of Japan. New York–Tokyo, 1972.
Sakamoto, M., “Namban Byobu (Southern Barbarian Screens)”, Nihon no bijustsu, No. 135, Tokyo, 1977.
Arte Namban, Lisbon, 1981.
Pinto, M., Mendes, H., Biombos Namban, Lisbon, 1988.
Arte Namban. Os Portugueses no Japão, Lisbon, 1990.
Additional Copyright Information:
Copyright images: Divisão de Documentação Fotográfica/ Instituto dos Museus e da Conservação,I.P.
Citation of this web page:
Alexandra Curvelo "Namban Folding Screen (Namban Byobu)" in "Discover Baroque Art", Museum With No Frontiers, 2016.;BAR;pt;Mus11_A;28;en
Prepared by: Alexandra Curvelo
Translation by: Alexandra Curvelo
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: PT 31