UC Berkeley History of Art Department

Events

Departmental Events



Art in the Expulsion of Christianity from Japan, 1614-15

Timon Screech, Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts, SOAS, University of London


The Jesuit and then Franciscan missions many large inroads into Japan from about 1550, but were severely curtailed in 1614, with all priests and friars expelled. There had been restrictions before, but the reason for this abrupt and total change of policy has ever been clearly explained. This talk will propose it was the arrival of the English that triggered the shift. England was the most anti-Catholic nation in Europe, and specifically anti-Jesuit, blaming them for a string of attacks on their polity (often without good reason, in the views of modern historians). The first English ship arrived in summer 1613. But its officers had trouble articulating their views, and so resorted to pictures, a great many of which were exported to Japan in subsequent voyages. All images are lost, but this talk will also seek to reconstruct them, and assess their meanings and appearances.