nanban 南蛮
KEY WORD : art history / general terms
Lit. Southern barbarian art. Considered to be the first manifestation of direct Western influence on Japanese culture, nanban art was produced as a result of interchange with Southern Europeans, primarily Portuguese and Spanish, who arrived in Japan in the 16c. The word does not refer to a particular style or system but is a convenient term for a variety of works produced in both Japanese and Western styles. The term nanban, literally meaning southern barbarian, originally came from Chinese and was used to refer to the people of Southeast Asia. However, in 16c and 17c Japan, almost anything foreign was called nanban. Paintings, lacquerware, china, metal work, dyed cloth and a large variety of other items in Western style and/or employing Western subjects were produced both for export and domestic use. Objects for use in rituals of the Jesuit and Franciscan churches, screens of maps of the world and Japan, copperplate engravings and paintings incorporating Western techniques were also made in response to European encouragement and instruction. The interest in foreign customs and styles led to a rage for all things Western, particularly during the 1590s. Some daimyou 大名 in the service of Toyotomi Hideyoshi 豊臣秀吉 (1536-98), for example, are recorded as having worn Portuguese clothing and eaten European foods, particularly eggs and beef. Nanban designs and subject-matter can be found on nou costumes *noushouzoku 能装束, in early-17c genre screen paintings *kinsei shoki fuuzokuga 近世初期風俗画, and even on armor worn by Tokugawa Ieyasu 徳川家康 (1542-1616). As a result of this craze, talented Kanou artists *Kanouha 狩野派 as well as *machi-eshi 町絵師 produced large numbers of screens known as *nanban byoubu 南蛮屏風. Even greater numbers of other craft products were also made. Production continued at least to the 1650s, after the closing of the country and ban on Christianity. However, nanban art lost its creativity and vigor as a result of the shogunate's restrictions on trade and the persecution of Christians, soon ceasing to be a vital art.

*nanban-e 南蛮絵 

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