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Portrait of St. Francis Xavier

Unknown Japanese painter

Kobe City Museum

Kobe City Museum

Portrait of Saint Francis Xavier (1506-1552), who was one of the founders of "The Society of Jesus" and the first missionary introducing Christianity into Japan in 1549. He and his attendants arrived at Kagoshima, the most southern part of the Kyushu, and took a long trip from Hirado, Yamaguchi, Sakai, Kyoto, to Bungo. Especially in Yamaguchi and Bungo, Xavier succeeded converting many people to Christianity. He left Japan in 1551, but the Christian population in Japan soared due to his successors' efforts.
This portrait was supposed to be painted after 1623. Christianity was officially banned by the Tokugawa shogunate in 1614, and Japanese painters, who studied western painting techniques in the schools established and run by the Society of Jesus around Nagasaki, had to secretly produce various artworks for worship. While most of them were detected and demolished by the shogunate, This portrait had been kept miraculously for hundreds of years in an old house in the Sendaiji ward, located in the northern, mountainous region of the Osaka prefecture. This was discovered by the research project of the Kyoto Imperial University in 1919 or 1920. Ikenaga Hajime, the founder of the Namban art collection in the Kobe City Museum, purchased and brought this portrait to Kobe in 1935.

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