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Genre Scenes of Westerners@Important Cultural Property

Japan, 17th century pair of six-fold screens H. 97.0 cm, W. 42.5 cm each

Early modern Western-style paintings, which introduced Western techniques of shadows and perspectives to traditional Japanese painting, was initially produced for the Society of Jesus to propagate Christianity in Japan during the Momoyama period (1573-1603). While this work, at first glance, resembles Western genre paintings, the underlying Christian themes and the faithful incorporation of traditional Japanese screen painting motifs of the four seasons indicate that this is a representative European-style painting expounding Christianity. The right screen shows women playing musical instruments in a springtime setting, and a reclining man and a fisherman enjoying a cool summer waterside. The left screen depicts a mother holding a baby, reminiscent of the Virgin Mary and the Christ child, and people harvesting their crops as autumn passes onto winter, and men on a pilgrimage head towards snow-capped mountains. The people, on the right screen, leading a life of pleasure are contrasted against those on the left, who are shown living piously in accordance to the teachings of Christianity.

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