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Emperor and Kings on Horseback

Unknown Japanese Painter1611 - 1614

Kobe City Museum

Kobe City Museum

This four-panel screen painting which depicts European and Asian lords, was painted in Japan in the beginning years of the Edo period (early 17th century). It is thought that the depiction of four riding lords in the screen were borrowed from twelve figures of monarchs in a large decorative map of the world. This map was revised from a 1607 map by the Dutch chart maker Willem Janszoon Blaeu, and published in 1609 by the Dutch engraver Petrus Kaerius (Pieter van den Keere).
According to the Latin poetry under each figure in Kaerius's map, the monarchs in the screen are identified as the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, the Ottoman Sultan, the Grand Duke of Moscow, and the Great Khan of the Mongolian Tatar. In the analogy with the Dutch map, two couples of monarchs raise their swords and are about to battle against each other.
This screen painting is presumed to be painted by Japanese painters in "Seminario", schools of the Society of Jesus in Nagasaki in the early 17th century. It might be given by Jesuit leaders to major daimyos including Tokugawa Ieyasu, because it had been inherited in the Matsudaira Clan of the Aizu province (today’s Fukushima pref.) which was established by Hoshina Masayuki (1611-1673), one of the grandsons of Ieyasu. Originally, this screen painting was the one of a pair of eight-panel screens that depicted foreign eight kings on horseback. It was supposed to be secured in the Tsurugaoka castle of the Matsudaira Clan until the beginning of the Meiji era (1868). The other screen had been inherited in the Matsudaira family until the middle 20th century. At present, it is conserved in the Suntory Art Museum, Tokyo.

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