A Japanese two-fold Namban screen
Early Edo period, 17th century
The screen depicts a bridge with a red-haired European man and two ladies, one playing the lute. Two fishing foreigners are depicted next to the bridge. Furthermore, two small boats are moored near the bridge, with two more beyond. Flowering Japanese cherry trees, associated with music making, and a willow tree, associated with the ‘adult entertainment’ districts, both frame the picture beneath golden clouds.
H. 97.7 x W. 115.8 cm
This is a rather untypical Namban screen since inside it has a silk brocade border. For another Japanese painting showing a European woman playing the lute see pl. 132 in: N.H.N. Mody, A Collection of Nagasaki Colour Prints and Paintings, Volume II.
Jesuits established seminarios in various parts of Japan in the second half of the 16th century. Not only for educating future clergymen but for instructing students to paint religious pictures in a more European style too. A lot of such religious paintings were produced, until shogun Tokagawa Iemitsu banned Christianity in 1639 and expelled the Portuguese and Spanish. The development of Christian art in the European manner halted completely and most of the existing religious works were destroyed. Fortunately, some secular Namban paintings escaped this iconoclasm, like the one presented.