Picturing European-Asian Encounters in Circa 1600

By Tamara H. Bentley.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper investigates three modes in which the European-Asian encounter was pictured in circa 1600. First, Netherlandish printed images of the potential fruits of Asian and American trade are explored. In the frontispiece to Abraham Ortelius’ 1579 Theatrum Orbis Terraum atlas, we find five continents pictured as nymphs surrounding a columned gateway, with the European nymph seated at the top, African and Asian nymphs at the sides, and South American and Tierra del Fuego at the bottom. The Tierra del Fuego nymph is only pictured as a bust, since, as the accompanying text explains, she has not yet been fully crafted or known. Images of Portuguese Goa reveal various forms of Dutch critique of Portuguese colonial practices. Finally, European-Asian encounters as pictured in Japanese painted screens of the same period are explored. About thirty sets of Japanese namban folding screens from about 1580 to 1610 reveal Portuguese traders and missionaries disembarking at Nagasaki, and parading to the Jesuit compound there. This paper argues that the format of parading with gifts is adapted from earlier Chinese images of Central Asians bearing tribute gifts to the Chinese court. It is interesting that the Japanese rulers are here appropriating the role of the "central kingdom" traditionally assigned to China. Furthermore, a classicizing motif is again used to suggest the empowered position of the home culture. The paper concludes by considering theatricality, and the worldwide flow of goods, as common elements across these imageries.

Keywords: Early Modern Trade, Cross-Cultural Encounter, Printed Books, Namban Screens

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 11, pp.213-226. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 7.187MB).

Prof. Tamara H. Bentley

Assistant Professor, Art History, Art Dept. and Asian Studies Program, Humanities Division, Colorado College, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA

Prof. Tamara H. Bentley Prof. Bentley received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in Asian art history in 2000 and was granted tenure in the Art department at Colorado College in 2008. She has worked extensively on the Chinese artist Chen Hongshou (1598-1652), and on Chinese printed playing cards in relation to the expanding middle-class art market. She has written on relationships between Chinese and Japanese print culture in the 17th Century, and word and image relationships in Chinese art. She is particularly interested in the interface between Asian art and early modern international trade.

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