As Francis Xavier was deemed to be a representative of the King of Portugal he received a friendly welcome despite the misgivings of the local governor and his teaching of Catholicism met with great initial success. In a short while the demand for hanging lacquer shrines and portable lecterns exceeded the supply, and the Jesuits commissioned further works from the Jesuit Curia in Rome but, owing to the long time gap, in many cases several years, between the original request and its subsequent delivery in Japan the they were obliged to commission local Japanese artists to produce copies of the paintings and at the same time to arrange for their hanging lacquer cases to be made by local artisans in Kyoto. As a consequence the majority of these oil paintings on copper or wooden panels show a European stylistic inﬂuence, whereas the lacquer cases are decorated with a mingling of European and Japanese Kano style. At the same time a Neapolitan Jesuit, Brother Giovanni Niccolò (1563-1626) who had arrived in Nagasaki in 1583, set up the Jesuit Art Academy in Kyushu which became an active centre for many Chinese and Japanese students.
Very few of these pieces remain to-day as Christianity was banned by the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1620, the missionaries were expelled and a long campaign of execution and persecution against both those missionaries who remained illegally and all their converts was carried out and virtually every item of Christian signiﬁcance was systematically rooted out and destroyed. In fact the practice of Christianity was totally banned until the Meiji (1868-1912) period. As a consequence these portable Christian shrines are extremely rare and only about twenty are currently known to have survived.
The existence of such Nanban (‘Southern Barbarian’) shrines was first recognized by Martha Boyer in 1951 (Boyer, Japanese Export Lacquer [Copenhagen, 1951], p. xxvii, pl.23). Subsequent research by the Japanese lacquer scholars Okada Jo and Arakawa Hirozaku, as well as by Toshio Watanabe, Haino Akio and Oliver Impey subsequently discovered further examples. For a similar example now in the Kyushu National Museum collection, see Sezon Museum of Art and Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art, eds, ‘Porutogaru to Nanban bunka’ ten: Mezase toho no kuniguni [‘Portugal and Nanban culture’ exhibition: Via Orientals] (Tokyo, 1993), p.206, no.184 and go to the Kyushu National Museum website (Japanese): http:/www.kyuhaku.jp/collection/collection_gl01.html. For another shrine see Oliver Impey, Japanese Export Lacquer 1580-1850 (Amsterdam, 2005), p.186, fig.445.
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