Folding Screens, Cartography, and the Jesuit Mission in Japan, 1580-1614

  • Giovanni Raneri

Student thesis: Phd


This is a study of Japanese folding screens decorated with a variety of cartographic imagery of European origin. The central argument of this work is that Japanese cartographic namban screens made during the period considered in this dissertation can assist us to further understand the marked Christian eschatological character of the pictorial programmes decorating these screens, reflecting European contemporary hopes about the messianic coming of a universal Christian King, and about the Christian future of Japan at the onset of Shogun Tokugawa Hidetada's ban against Christianity (1614). By taking into account the use of folding screens as diplomatic gifts, this research seeks to argue that the hybridity of namban cartographic screens reveals as much about the expectation of Jesuit missionaries towards the evangelization of the Japanese archipelago as they did about how Japanese artists and observers understood European cartographic knowledge within a pre-existing local ritual use of maps and cartography.This dissertation is composed of four chapters. In chapter one I describe the material qualities of folding screens, the architectural environments in which they were displayed, and how the practice of donating folding screens as diplomatic gifts was eventually co-opted by the Jesuit missionaries operating in Japan. Chapter two is a discussion on the organization and the passage of the first Japanese diplomatic mission in Europe and the role that European cartography and geographical allegories played in this event. In chapter three I will examine the dissemination of Christian sacred images in Japan and the establishment of a Jesuit school to train Japanese artists in western-style painting. Chapter four unpacks the discussion developed in the preceding chapters and focuses on two specific pairs of namban cartographic screens - the Map of the World and Twenty-Eight Cities (today at the Imperial Household Agency in Tokyo) and the Battle of Lepanto and World Map (today at the Kosetsu Museum in Kobe) - for which I propose a new interpretation.
Date of Award31 Dec 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAnthony Gerbino (Supervisor) & Rupert Cox (Supervisor)


  • Jesuits
  • Early Modern Japan
  • Folding Screens
  • Cartography
  • World Maps

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