Southern Barbarians in Japan

Historical period(s)
Edo period, 17th century
Ink, color, and gold on paper
H x W (each): 153 x 331 cm (60 1/4 x 130 5/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Screens (six-panel)

Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan
Provenance research underway.

From the mid-sixteenth century until 1639, Portuguese traders based in the port of Nagasaki imported Chinese goods to Japan because the Ming government had banned direct commerce between China and Japan. Accompanying the Portuguese merchants via secured territories in Goa, Macao, and the Philippines were missionaries from Portugal, Spain, and Italy who were highly educated bearers of broad information about Western learning.

Initially, the Japanese authorities did not wish to jeopardize the essential silk trade with China and so tolerated the annoyance of Christian proselytizing. In time, the Iberians were supplanted by religiously neutral Dutch traders, who provided the necessary access to China, and missionaries were formally expelled in 1614. The Portuguese trade mission, however, survived until 1639.

Screens like these, showing the arrival of a Portuguese ship to Nagasaki and a promenade full of visitors, were created for the most part between 1590 and 1614. Such screens are rare; only sixty or so of these so-called namban, or "southern barbarian," (a Japanese term for foreigners), screens are currently housed in collections around the world.

Published References
  • Robert Hatfield Ellsworth’s DISCOVERY. Lexington, Massachusetts. Endpapers and p. 95, Endpapers and Fig. 49.
  • Mayuyama Junkichi. Japanese Art in the West. Tokyo. pl. 199.
  • History of Design: Decorative Arts and Material Culture, 1400-2000. .
  • Sakamoto Mitsuru. Nanban byobu. no. 135 Tokyo, August 1977. fig. 16-17.
  • Keiko Kawamoto. Nihon byobue shusei. 18 vols., Tokyo, 1977-1982. vol. 15: pp. 131, 169-70,174-6, pls. 47-48, 53.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 31, vol. 2: p. 161.
  • Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th & 17th Centuries. Exh. cat. Washington, 2007. J-31, p..
  • Harold P. Stern. Ukiyo-e Painting: Freer Gallery of Art Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition. Exh. cat. Washington and Baltimore, 1973. cat. 3, pp. 6-9.
  • After the Barbarians II: Namban Works of Art for the Japanese, Portuguese and Dutch Markets., 1st ed. London and Lisbon. p. 16.
  • Elisabeth West FitzHugh. A Pigment Census of Ukiyo-e Paintings in the Freer Gallery of Art. vol. 11 Washington and Ann Arbor, 1979. pp. 27-38.
  • , vol. 11 Washington and Ann Arbor. pp. 27-38.
  • Haruko Nawata Ward. Women Religious Leaders in Japan's Christian Century, 1549-1650. Women and gender in the early modern world Burlington, Vermont and Farnham, UK. p. 76, fig. 3.2.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 123.
  • Okamoto Yoshimoto, Tadao Takamizawa. Namban byobu. 2 vols, Tokyo. p. 131, fig. 7.
  • Sakamoto Mitsuru. Nanban byobu shusei [Catalogue Raisonné of the Namban Screens]. Tokyo. pp. 140-145.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
SI Usage Statement

Usage Conditions Apply

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

The information presented on this website may be revised and updated at any time as ongoing research progresses or as otherwise warranted. Pending any such revisions and updates, information on this site may be incomplete or inaccurate or may contain typographical errors. Neither the Smithsonian nor its regents, officers, employees, or agents make any representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the information on the site. Use this site and the information provided on it subject to your own judgment. The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery welcome information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of objects in their collections.