The Art of the Early Days of the First Global Empire Now on Display in Lisbon

Orient Museum, LisbonThe early days of the world’s first truly global empire are currently being brought to life in Lisbon’s Orient Museum. The Portuguese were the first Europeans in Japan, the last ones to leave China, and controlled a large part of India for centuries, and it is that European-Asian exchange of cultures, art, and traditions that can be seen in this new exhibition.
The Portuguese introduced Christianity and Western weapons and styles to the East, while the Asians provided spices and silks to Europe through Portugal.
The Japanese were particularly fascinated by the Portuguese, especially by their Western facial features and fashions (including never-before-seen buttons), but they considered them to be culturally inferior. The Portuguese (or Europeans in general) were nicknamed “Namban,” meaning “Barbarians of the South” (although they were actually from the West and Northern Hemisphere), and “Namban art” is any artistic expression from Japan and China in the 16th and 17th centuries, relating to their contact with Europeans.
This exhibition in the Orient Museum is called “Namban Commissions: The Portuguese in Modern-Age Japan,” and presents close to 60 rare pieces from various collections, including extraordinarily-illustrated screens and military masks.
You can see them all until May 31st.