119 , 2017-03-17 , International Research Center for Japanese Studies
A pair of screens depicting a World Map with Cityscapes and Rulers in the Museum of the Imperial Collections, Tokyo, has long complicated the notion of place in cultural interpretation between East and West. Painted in the Jesuit workshop in Japan (c. 1583–1614), and in a customary Japanese format, this pair of screens has been considered primarily in relation to Japanese art, despite being produced by Western and Western-trained artists, using Western materials and pictorial sources, and guided by Western aspirations. This article moves beyond the identification of sources to offer an analysis of the Western, Jesuit intentions for these screens as part of an attempt to reconsider early modern European art within its original global context. It draws upon an early-twentieth-century epistolary parallel to sixteenthcentury cross-cultural exchange—the correspondence between two scholars who steered the course of the discipline of art history in East and West, Yashiro Yukio (1890–1975) and Bernard Berenson (1865–1959). The present study applies Yashiro’s use of the determinative detail to examine the Western framework for the production of these screens using four historical registers of place: the place of desire, the composition of place, the contempt for the world, and the index of place. An interdisciplinary approach to cultural contact, via early modern European geography, theology, philosophy, and anthropology demonstrates how one object’s response to shifting notions of what constituted the world highlights some of the same contradictions that have hindered the construction of a truly global art history beyond national stakes alone.