All, I long ago promised to put the text for my talk in Firenze on the board. I have been waiting for the Royal Armouries people to issue the report of a conference at the Tower of London where it was first aired to the public - and I have waited and waited and ..... In fairness much of the blame lies with other museums and institutions who did not bother replying when asked for permission to use copyrighted images. So, last night I spent a bit of time tidying the original and cutting out the junk added for non-katchu people as well as merging my findings as to why Date Masamune became involved in the Keicho Mission. What I post here is just about the full saga as known at present. There are still gaps and there are still lost armours that some of us might unknowingly own. It is a big document so I will post it in its own posting below. I hope you enjoy it. Ian B.
Japanese Diplomatic Gifts of Arms and Armour to Europe During the 16th and 17th Centuries Ian Bottomley
Some of this research has been published previously, but new evidence has come to light that has necessitated the revision of some of my earlier findings and the re-evaluation others. Some of the most important primary sources exist only in manuscript form, written by clerks in a foreign language, in antique scripts, using abbreviations and specialist terminology that are not found in dictionaries. I have tried to be as accurate as possible in interpreting these data, but know that some errors will have crept in. Some words still defy translation, but I do not think their translation will materially alter my conclusions.
Towards the end of the 15th century the two great sea-faring nations, Spain and Portugal were in dispute over who should have claim to any lands yet to be discovered. Various popes made attempts to settle matters by allocating various areas on the globe between the two countries, but with little lasting success. Finally it was decided that the only satisfactory solution lay in dividing the world into hemispheres, the base line being positioned some 100 leagues west of the Azores and Cape Verde islands. Spain’s region of influence was to lie to the west of the line whilst Portugal was allocated all the lands to the east. After mapping the coast of Africa and establishing a base at Goa in Indiain 1510, the Portuguese sailed further east, reaching China and finally the fabled islands of ‘Cipangu’; the country we now know as Japan. This momentous event took place in 1543 when a storm forced a Chinese ship to take shelter at the island of Tanegashima, just off the southern tip of Kyushū. On board were three Portuguese merchant-adventurers, but who exactly these pioneers were remains uncertain. One was almost certainly Christopher da Molta, being named in Japanese texts as Kirishitamota . This accidental visit was to have a profound effect on Japanese history. Not only did it open the way for trade between the two countries, but also the guns the Portuguese carried were in due course to determine Japan's political destiny.
The Portuguese found Japan in the throws of sporadic but widespread civil wars. So devastating were these conflicts that the whole of this period is now known as the Sengoku Jidai, or ‘Age of the Country at War’. It was an era in which a territorial lord, or daimyo, might gain some local supremacy, only to be defeated and toppled in turn; none being able to build a sufficiently large power-base from which to launch an attempt to unify the country. It was the more forward thinking of these daimyo that recognised the potential of the guns the Portuguese carried and realised these were weapons that could break the stalemate of the civil wars.
The central Japanese authorities, preoccupied with the country’s internal problems, paid little attention to the newly arrived Portuguese other than to grant them permission to trade. Within a few years the Jesuit priests, who controlled Portugal's Far Eastern operations, were gaining converts to Christianity. They also realised that there was an opportunity for a lucrative import and export business. Diplomatic relations between Japan and China had been strained for some time and the Japanese were having difficulty in satisfying their demand for Chinese brocades and raw silk. Such trade that did exist was largely in the hands of merchant sailors, who in most cases were little more than pirates. The Jesuits put the importation of silk on a more respectable footing by established a triangular trading route between their Indian, Chinese and Japanese bases. Each journey involved shipping goods from Goa to Macao, in China. There they were exchanged for silk and other items in demand in Japan. These goods were then taken to Japanese ports such as Yamagawa, Usuki, Hirado and later Nagasaki where they were exchanged for commodities such as copper, ceramics and lacquer-ware for the return voyage to India and ultimately Europe. Each round trip was so profitable that it was reckoned to double the outlay.
It was natural that the daimyo of Kyushū should vie with each other to have the Portuguese ‘Black Ships’ unload these very desirable and profitable commodities at their ports. Ōtomo Yoshishige, Daimyo of Bungo province (1530 – 1587), realising that a diplomatic gesture might gain him an advantage over his rivals, sent the four year old King of Portugal, Dom Sebastião (1557 – 1578), in 1562, a tantō, or dagger, with a gold snake wrapped around the scabbard. Unfortunately the gift never reached its intended recipient, being damaged in a storm and having to be returned to Japan for repair . Ōtomo also sent the Portuguese Viceroy of Goa, Antão de Noronha, a gift that included an armour and two silver mounted naginata, that were said to have been very favourably received . In the collection of Delhi Museum is a Japanese helmet lavishly decorated with Indian motifs in gold lacquer that is stated to have come from the Deccan. This may well be a surviving part of that armour. By 1562 Ōtomo Yoshishige had become a Buddhist monk, a conversion that did little to curb his military ambitions. Under his new Buddhist name, Sanbisai Sōrin, he continued to attack neighbouring provinces and add them to his domains. In 1578, he converted to Christianity, taking the name Francisco on his baptism. In all probably this conversion to the Catholic faith was designed to ingratiate himself even further with the Jesuits rather than from any sense of conviction. He died at the battle of Mimigawa fighting the powerful Shimazu family of Satsuma province.
These early decades of Portugal’s involvement in Japan, dominated as they were by trade and religious conversions, were not to last. The political situation in Portugal became unstable when the young king, Dom Sebastião died without heir in 1578. His uncle, Cardinal Henry (1557 – 1580), succeeded him but died only two years after his succession. Whilst the Portuguese were casting around for yet another suitable candidate to take the throne, King Philip II of Spain (1527 – 1598) seized the moment and marched into Lisbon, becoming the ruler of the whole Iberian peninsular. For the Jesuits in the Far East this was worrying news. The unification of the two countries had in effect, negated the treaties that had given Portugal the sole rights to trade and gain converts in the East. For 30 years the Jesuits had managed to retain complete control of the region’s trade with Europe, and just as importantly to them, had kept the Spanish and in particular the monks of the Franciscan order out of the area. With a Spanish king now on the throne of Portugal there was the very real fear that Philip would favour the Franciscans and break the Jesuit monopoly.
In an attempt to forestall a move by the fiercely Catholic King Philip, the Jesuits decided that what was needed was a scheme to persuade him of the splendid progress being made in converting the Japanese to their faith. In 1582, Father Alessandro Valignano (1539 – 1606) persuaded three Kyushū daimyo, Ōmura, Ōtomo and Arima to assist in a scheme to send a group of Japanese Christians to the Spanish court. As a secondary benefit it was believed that these converts would be so awed by the splendours of European architecture, culture and learning that, on their return, they would spread word throughout Japan of the advantage of converting to Christianity. Ultimately, four baptised Japanese youths were selected to sail to Spain and Italy by way of Africa with Fr. Valignano and Fr. Diogo Mesquita, their tutor. The four Japanese, all baptised Christians, were Mancio Ito, their spokesman, Miguel Chijiwa, Julião Nakaura and Martinão Hara.
This momentous journey, known in Japan as the ‘Tenshō Mission’, was seen by other Japanese as a way of strengthening the diplomatic ties between Japan and Europe . Oda Nobunaga (1534 –1582), one of the leading daimyo of the era, and his vassal, Hashiba Hideyoshi (1537 –1598), sent gifts to the Jesuits on Kyushū to be given to European dignitaries. Hashiba Hideyoshi had been born a peasant, but had risen to power as one of Oda's senior generals by reason of his exceptional military ability. He is better known by his later name, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Oda Nobunaga was heavily involved in fighting on Honshū whilst preparations for the mission were being put in place on Kyushū but he was known to be friendly towards the foreigners and fascinated by their culture. It is understandable therefore that he should take this opportunity to ingratiate himself further by contributing gifts to the mission. Hashiba Hideyoshi on the other hand was far less sympathetic towards the Portuguese. Following the unification of Japan and his elevation to the position of Reagent he issued an edict proscribing Christianity but failed to enforce it with any vigour. It seems rather strange therefore that he felt obliged to subscribe expensive gifts to the venture. His attitude is also rather presumptuous in view of the fact that he was a vassal of Oda Nobunaga, albeit an important one, and his action could be interpreted as up-staging his superior. Perhaps his action was designed to ingratiate himself with his lord, or perhaps he had a more ulterior motive for attempting to curry favour with the foreigners and the Kyushū daimyo.
During the same year that the mission was being organised, Oda Nobunaga dispatched his generals to attack various castles and strongholds on Honshu occupied by some of the few daimyo that still opposed him. Confident that matters were in capable hands, he took the opportunity to travel to Kyoto to rest. Hashiba Hideyoshi was given the task of subduing Takamatsu Castle in Bitchu province, held by the powerful Mori clan of Nagato. Another of Oda’s trusted generals, Akechi Mitsuhide (1528 – 1582), was ordered to join Hashiba and aid him in the assault. For reasons that have never been satisfactorily explained, Akechi disobeyed the order and instead moved his troops on Kyoto. The greater number was ordered to attack Nijo Castle whilst Akechi and a smaller forced attacked Honno-ji, the temple in which Nobunaga was staying. Taken completely by surprise and totally outnumbered, Oda Nobunaga committed suicide and ordered the temple burned to stop his head being taken. Akechi then sought out one of Oda Nobunaga's sons, Nobutada (1557 – 1582), who in turn committed suicide rather than be captured. As soon as news of the assassinations reached Hashiba Hideyoshi, he acted with alacrity. Calling a truce with his opponents he raced to Kyoto to hunt Akechi down, supposedly killing him only 13 days later at the Battle of Yamazaki. All manner of theories exist as to the reason why Akechi plotted against Oda Nobunaga, mostly based on supposed insults, but none are really convincing. There is also a suspicion that he was not killed by Hashiba but was allowed to flee the battlefield and entered the priesthood under the name Tenkai.
Another great daimyo and one of Oda's major allies, Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543 – 1616), was touring the Sakai region near Osaka with only a personal bodyguard when news of the assassination reached him. With Hashiba Hideyoshi now at the head of the Oda army, Tokugawa Ieyasu wisely chose to retreat back to his home province of Mikawa. Despite the fact that Hashiba had apparently done what any good vassal should, that is avenging his lord, Tokugawa Ieyasu exhibited hostility towards Hashiba’s action in taking over the Oda army and later moved against him.
After some initial delays caused by bad weather, the Tenshō Mission finally set sail from Nagasaki on 20th February 1582. The fleet travelled first to Macao where the continuing bad weather obliged them to stay until rather late in year. Eventually they landed in Goa where Fr. Valignano left the group. After numerous adventures, including an unplanned landing in Africa caused by inept navigation, they landed in Lisbon, on 11th August 1584. Travelling first to Coimbra, the party proceeded to Madrid via Toledo. At the Royal Palace the group had an audience with King Philip II, presenting him with letters from various Japanese dignitaries and numerous gifts, amongst which were armours, weapons, horse harness, painted screens and lacquer work. It is generally accepted that there were two armours amongst the gifts , an assumption based on an inventory taken in that year of Philip’s 'Treasure House' in the Palace. However, another manuscript survives in the Spanish archives that show this was not the case and that more than two armours were involved . The first document is dated 13th June 1585 and describes:
‘ Two armours, given to his Majesty by the King of Japan’.
‘The one of black steel painted and gilded, with a breastplate and the shoulder guards red ribboned and the two sleeves and the greaves of splints -?- as the breast, and a helmet covered with fur, with a crest belonging, with a neck guard of lames of similar work, varnished like the breast and the shoulder guards, with its fauld of lames of similar form, the sleeves with a few plates of iron varnished and gilded and sewn onto a damask of blue silk and colours, -?- garnished also with fur. (the fur is described as seal fur - pelo de lobo marino).
The description of the hair covering on the helmet positively identifies it as being the zunari kabuto that survived in Madrid until a fire in 1884 destroyed all but the iron bowl. No other helmet covered with hair is known to have reached Europe at this date. It was a helmet designed to look like a human head with embossed eyes and eyebrows on the peak, applied ears, and a covering of bear bristles embedded in lacquer. Helmets covered with hair were not uncommon at this period and often depicted particular hairstyles. A 19th century drawing shows that the shikoro or neck guard of this helmet was also covered with longer yak hair hanging over the plates. The helmet is described as having a crest but the fitting which once carried this is now lost, although two small rivets on the brow plate that held it still survive. The description also states that the armour was red laced and that other parts of the armour were also decorated with fur. In all probability this would refer to the fact that many armours have the lower plates of some components fringed with bear fur to help shed rain. This feature was common at the time, yet none of the surviving armours known to have been in Europe during the 16th or 17th century had this feature. We must assume therefore that the other parts of this armour left the Real Armeria and are now missing.
By the 19th century, when for the first time drawings and photographs of the Japanese armours in Madrid were published, the various elements of the armours had become mixed. The hair-covered helmet had become associated, quite logically, with a nio dō. The origin of this dō is discussed later.
The second armour listed in this inventory is described as:
‘The other armour is covered with purple, white and red ribbons and plates of gilded steel that make up the cuirass, with a helmet of gilded steel with its beavor (mask) of natural colour and on the helmet two horns of brass. The sleeves of purple cloth partly of mail and a few gilded plates and its shoulder guards of steel lames in ranks. The breast is continued with tassets of black-varnished scales and the greaves with coloured ribbons (the cloth ties). It is decorated with lions.
This armour can be positively identified with various fragments of armour that survived the fire by reason of the applied ornaments of copper gilt in the form of Chinese lions, shishi, on most of the major plates. One fragment still retains some lacing in purple and white confirming the identification. In addition to the shishi, this armour is also decorated with applied kamon in gilded copper that take the form of kirimon , with 3-5-3 flowers, and stylised chrysanthemums, kikumon . Again, by the 19th century when the surviving Madrid armours were illustrated, this dō had gained a helmet bowl, sleeves and other elements that were not its own. In the drawings and photographs it is shown with a 62 plate ko boshi bachi. It is clear from the 19th century drawing that the helmet bowl was not attached to the neck guard, being simply put together for display. The reason for the confusion no doubt arose because this bowl has a shishi painted in gold lacquer on the peak. To the right of the shishi is a kirimon, but with a 7-9-7 arrangement of flowers, and on the left a 16 petalled kikumon. These kamon were in fact reserved for the exclusive use of the Emperor until Hashiba Hideyoshi was granted their use when he was appointed Regent over a unified Japan in 1585 and given the name Toyotomi. These same Imperial kamon also occur lacquered in gold on some of the gessan plates of the nio dō showing that this ko boshi bachi originally belonged to the nio dō.
In the same 19th century images, the nio dō was again quite logically mounted with a pair of sleeves and shin guards modelled with muscles and protruding veins. These in fact have the same applied kamon that identify them as belonging to the purple white and red cuirass. So, as assembled, the nio dō was drawn and photographed with the wrong helmet, the wrong sleeves and the wrong shin guards. Similarly, the purple, white and red-laced armour is depicted with the wrong helmet bowl and wrong limb armour. Since Hideyoshi was not granted the 7-9-7 kirimon and 16 petalled kikumon heraldry until some three years after the Tensho Mission had sailed, the nio dō and the ko boshi bachi must have arrived in Spain at a later date.
The inventory description states that the purple, white and red-laced armour had a gold lacquered helmet, almost certainly the rather conical multi-plate bowl with a flat peak that still survives in Madrid. This helmet bowl, of 32 plates has igaki at the base of the plates and is virtually identical to a helmet preserved in the Kaibara Hachiman Shrine in Tamba and is described as being a style worn in the Kyushu region.
The second document preserved in Madrid that relates to the 1585 gift, is an order, dated 1603, to transfer various items, including a Japanese armour, from the Treasure House to the Royal Armoury, the Real Armeria, following the death of King Philip II. It is headed:
The things to be transferred from the Treasure House -?- (probably – ‘and placed with the other’) two of the Chinese -?-(‘armours’) by Franciso Berdugo on -?- on seventh of January in honour of -?-
A black corselet with its sleeves and shoulder guards of plates garnished with a mesh of black ribbons having an attachment of gilded brass on its sleeves and four others opposed on the front and back. A black morion of the same, with a mask -?- and a crest of gilded leather and in the front a gold cross on a green field and in front two tufts (or tails) (of) black hair, and a (baruas?) in black and white.
At this time the Real Armeria was furnished with large cupboards in which armours were stored. A marginal note alongside this description states that the armour was placed in location 8 with the two armours described in the 1585 inventory. This third armour can be identified with some confidence as one that appears later in the story. Unlike the other two armours in the gift, it is in a severe, practical fighting style. The ‘attachments of gilded brass’ and the ‘gold cross’ mentioned in the description refer to the kamon of the Shimazu family that occur on various parts of the armour. Ōtomo Sorin was the most likely donor of this gift, having fought the Shimazu prior to its departure for Europe. It is interesting that in the intervening 18 years between the writing of these two documents, confusion had arisen as to whether the armours had come from Japan or China. This movement order also includes staff weapons whose description suggests they are Japanese since one is described as being decorated with mother-of-pearl and another as being red lacquered.
Following their visit to Madrid, and their meeting with King Philip II, the Japanese party travelled to Alicante where they boarded a ship for Livorno, travelling from there to Florence. In that city they met Francisco de Medici (1541 –1587) who is reported to have received a gift of two armours. Quoted in this reference is a description from an inventory of the Medici armoury carried out in 1613. One of the armours given to Francisco is listed as:
Una armadura di legnio indiano cioe petto estience listrato d’oro ordini con girello fatto a scarcelle semile e manchi di tela near con pui pezzi.
This description is somewhat difficult to interpret but seems to read:
‘An Indian armour of wood, that is to say a breastplate extensively laced of gold in layers, with a spiral ? with bases (skirt) and ? sleeves of cloth with some other pieces’
Unusually there is no mention of a helmet, mask or shoulder guards, although the description does include the reference to ‘other pieces’. It is almost certain that the two armours given to the Medici eventually found their way to Copenhagen; a supposition examined later.
Rudolf II of Bohemia (1552 – 1612), like many of his contemporaries, collected thousands of strange and wonderful objects for his ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ housed in his vast castle in Prague. The collection grew so large that he finally had to build a new wing on the Palace to house it. His paternal uncle was Philip II of Spain and as a youth he had lived at the devoutly Catholic Spanish court. Later in his life, although technically the Holy Roman Emperor, he grew tolerant of other religions including Protestantism. An inventory of Prague Castle, taken in 1607, includes two Japanese armours. Tradition has it that they were a gift to the Habsburg Court and the date proves that they can only have arrived in Europe with the Tenshō Mission. The mission itself did not travel to Prague, and at this stage in his life Rudolf was something of a recluse, suffering periods of depression and being very reluctant to travel. In all probability the Jesuits advisors to the Mission may well have felt that the Holy Roman Emperor was sufficiently important to have warranted the gift and had deposited the two armours in Madrid to be sent on to Prague.
The inventory reads:
One Indian armour of shiny material with black shiny lacquer overall. Cuirass, helmet, chin piece, in a large chest. One other similar Indian armour somewhat plainer and more affected of silk work with a brass crest, black lacquered in a similar manner...
Following Rudolf’s death much of the Kunstkammer was sold off to pay off the huge debts he had run up. Further depredations of the collection followed during the Thirty Years War, particularly by the Swedes. After various vicissitudes, during which the two armours were displayed in Brussels as the armours of Montezuma and that of his son, they were finally returned to Central Europe and are now housed in Schloss Ambras in Austria . Both of these armours are in the formal Kansai style, with akodanari helmet bowls, large spreading neck guards, dō maru , or kebiki laced ni mai dō , and large shoulder guards. One has the characters ‘ten’ and ‘shita’ worked in red in the white lacing on the breast meaning ‘All that is below Heaven on earth’. It bears an unidentified kamon of wisteria leaves and flowers on the plates of the forearm indicating it belonged to a family who claimed descent from the Fujiwara. The other armour is one of 12 similar armours, in this case laced in red, white and brown that belonged to Hashiba Hideyoshi. These armours are thought to have been worn by Hashiba’s doubles, kagamusha, on the battlefield. Eleven other armours from this series, some having blue instead of brown lacing in the waist region, are distributed in various Japanese collections, principally between the Tokugawa Art Museum in Nagoya and Osaka Castle Museum. All of these armours are decorated in gold lacquer on the lower plates of the pendant sections of the cuirass and in other places with the familiar kirimon with 3 / 5 / 3 flowers used by Hashiba Hideyoshi before he became Regent. The heraldry shows that this armour, and the purple, white and red-laced armour in Madrid, were gifts contributed to the mission by Hashiba Hideyoshi.
Following their stay in Florence, the four youths travelled to Rome where they were presented to Pope Gregory VIII, and after his death, to Pope Sixtus V. Amongst the gifts recorded as being given to the Pontiff was a screen decorated with a painting of Azuchi castle sent by Nobunaga. Leaving Rome the group travelled around northern Italy, visiting Venice where they presented a letter to the Doge written by Mancio Ito. The mission then moved on to Turin. Once again an armour seems to have been given as a gift. A small drawing of an armour (No. 15 figure 5) appears in the 1840 catalogue of the dynastic armoury in Turin . Unfortunately there is no indication of the armour’s origins but it is clear from the drawing that it is yet another of the formal armours in the Kansai style with the usual spreading neck guard and large shoulder guards. In 1898 a lavish photographic record of some of the major items from the Turin collection was published and this armour is illustrated, mounted on a stuffed horse with a late Edo period harness. Unfortunately the photograph is such that the kamon that might identify the armour more positively cannot be made out. Also in this publication is a photograph of another helmet and mask from about 1580 as well as a late Edo period dō-maru armour ; the latter obviously acquired by the Duke after the opening of Japan in 1853. By 1880 three Japanese armours are listed in the catalogue of the Turin armoury but the lack of illustrations and the brief descriptions, make it impossible to reach any meaningful conclusions. All that can be said is that during the period between the publication of the 1840 catalogue and that of 1880, two more Japanese armours, Nos. 53 and 54, had been added to the Turin collection. It is known that the Duke was at this time adding items to his dynastic collection, buying many of the items on the Parisian art market. The first of these new armours in the 1880 catalogue is described as complete and is almost certainly the late Edo period dō-maru. The other is described as being for use on foot and as being incomplete and different from the other two. Just what prompted the author to this description is not known, but it must be this armour to which the second photographed helmet belonged. A possible source for this armour is discussed later. What happened to these armours and when they were lost from the collection is not known but only one Momoyama helmet remains.
The Tenshō mission returned to Japan on 21st July 1590, staying in India for several years for fear of the edict against Christianity imposed by Hideyoshi who was now ruling as Regent. The mission brought back gifts for Hideyoshi, ostensibly from the Governor of Goa, but probably on the orders of the Spanish king who would have learned of his appointment as Reagent from the Jesuits. These included two gilded armours, pistols and a campaign tent. Although the gifts do not appear to have survived, the illuminated letter accompanying them is now in the Myoho-in, Kyoto. In 1598 King Philip II died leaving the Spanish throne to his son Philip III (1578 – 1621). Even before his death his father had reservations about his son's fitness to rule. These fears were justified since as soon as he was seated on the throne Philip III entrusted the running of the country to the Duke of Lerma and embarked on a life of pleasure, spending vast amounts of money on festivities, and it must be said, works of piety.
As was mentioned above, two Japanese armours appeared in Denmark that are now preserved in the Royal Danish Kunstkammer as Eab31 and Eab32. Christian IV (1588 – 1648), like Rudolf of Bohemia, was a passionate collector of the unusual, employing agents all over Europe to find objects for his ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’. Unfortunately no documentary evidence appears to survive concerning the date of the acquisition of these armours. Because the Danes had no involvement with the Japanese at this time, it is clear that the armours were acquired from some country that did. All that is known is that they first appear in an inventory taken around the middle of the 17th century. As has already been speculated, these two armours appear to have been acquired from the Medici.
One of these armours, in the formal Kansai style, is gold lacquered and laced in red, white and blue. The gold lacquering accords with the description of the armour in the Medici inventory, as does the kamon, a variation of the mitsu tomoe maru kamon (three comma shapes arranged in a circular formation) that may be the inspiration for the term ‘spiral’ in the inventory. Although many families used this kamon, the comma shapes on this armour have very small heads similar to the version used by the Kuki family. Traditionally the Kuki had been seafarers with a rather unsavoury reputation for piracy, operating from a base on Kyushu, later becoming more respectable and joining the forces of Oda Nobunaga. It seems probable it was donated by a Kyushu daimyo that had obtained it during a raid on a Kuki stronghold.
The other Danish armour is a practical fighting armour of the late Muromachi or Momoyama period, with a hotoke dō. It has now lost its helmet, mask and leg defences, but these are shown in a painting by Jan Brueghel the Younger (1601-1678) and Hendrick van Balen (1575-1632) entitled ‘Allegory of Touch’ preserved in the Musèe Calvat, Avignon. In the picture is a pile of European armour in the left foreground behind which is the Japanese armour on a stand. This same assembly of armour parts, but without the Japanese armour, appears in several of Brueghel paintings, for example that in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence entitled Allegory of Air and Fire, No. 1204, dated to later in his life. Brueghal may have owned the European armours and used them repeatedly as studio props, but the similarity of their arrangement in all of the paintings suggests that he was copying the details from a sketch or preliminary study. Brueghal is known to have travelled in Italy and may have seen and drawn the Japanese armour whilst in Florence. Alternatively he may have sketched the armour as it passed through Antwerp on its way to Copenhagen. If the latter explanation were the case, it would establish the date of its transfer to Copenhagen as being around 1630. Evident in the Brueghel painting is the fact that the armour originally had an etchu zunari kabuto , black lacquered like the rest.
Summarising, the Tensho mission distributed some eight armours around Europe: Two to Rudolf II of Bohemia, two to the Medici who appear to have subsequently sold them to the Danish court, one to the Duke of Piedmond and three, to the Spanish court.
Following the visit to Spain by the four Japanese youths, other maritime nations of Europe began to take notice of the potential for trade in the Far East. In 1598 a fleet of five ships with a total crew of 507 left Rotterdam to trade in the Moluccas. By the time they had crossed the Atlantic many of the crew were dead from hunger or disease. For five months the fleet attempted to round Cape Horn but only four ships were eventually successful, the ‘Geloof’ (Faith) giving up and returning to Holland. Following that ordeal, another ship was captured by the Spanish and a third set off alone to the Moluccas where the crew were murdered. The two remaining ships made their way across the Pacific but lost contact in a storm during which the ‘Hoop’ (Hope) sank leaving the Liefde (Charity) to sail on alone. After terrible hardships the ship finally made landfall in Japan, in the province of Bungo, in 1600. On board were 23 Dutch and the English pilot, William Adams. So weak and diseased were the crew that six died before they could be nursed back to health. Eventually the Dutch were allowed to leave, taking with them a letter giving them permission to trade. Will Adams was not so fortunate. Tokugawa Ieyasu who was in Osaka at the time, saw him as a useful source of information about Europe and, because he was a Protestant, a counter to the Jesuit priests and other Catholics. He was never allowed to return to England and was ultimately made one of Ieyasu’s retainers, being given an estate and a Japanese wife with whom he had children.
During the same year that the Dutch reached Japan the short-lived peace the country had enjoyed under Hideyoshi began to break down. Toyotomi Hideyoshi had died in 1598, leaving his five-year-old son in the protection of both civil and military guardians. Inevitably a struggle for power broke out culminating in the largest battle fought on Japanese soil at the small village of Seki ga Hara in 1600. Tokugawa Ieyasu emerged as victor, helped it is said by cannon salvaged by Will Adams from the Liefde. With no opposition, Ieyasu was made Shogun in 1603 but passed the title to his son Hidetada just three years later and retired to Sumpu where he continued to wield considerable power.
Spurred on by the exploits of the Dutch, a group of English merchants founded the Honourable East India Company in 1600 to finance trading expeditions to Asia. They were followed a few years later by the Dutch, who put their voyages on a more official footing by establishing the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC). As soon as news reached Holland that permission had been granted to trade with the Japanese, a VOC ship was dispatched, reaching the island of Hirado in 1609. There, a trading station was established, importing goods from both the East Indies and Europe. In 1611 the VOC’s representative in Japan, Jacques Specx and his deputy Pieter Sergerz, travelled to Edo with a letter from Stadholder Mauritz and presents for the Shogun, Tokugawa Hidetada. In return Hidetada presented Mauritz Van Nassau with various gifts, amongst which were three armours. These armours were eventually installed in the Huis den Bosch in The Hague, one being depicted in a triumphal painting by Jacob van Campen (1596 – 1657). Again the armour depicted is in the Kansei style with an akodanari helmet bowl, large neck guard and large shoulder guards. The fukigayeshi, or ‘turn backs’ of the helmet display the same 16 petalled kikumon and the 7-9-7 kirimon granted to Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1585, in this case done in gold lacquer and placed side by side. Clearly Tokugawa Hidetada was giving away Hideyoshi’s armours.
After several years of unsuccessful attempts to reach Asia by a northern route, the Honourable East India Company finally dispatched an expedition to South East Asia via the Cape of Good Hope. A fleet of three ships set sail for the Spice Islands commanded by Captain John Saris (1580 – 1643), an Englishman of Huguenot descent. Arriving at the islands rather late in the season, Saris was only able to fill two of his ships, which returned to England. Acting as his orders dictated, Saris sailed on in the ship Clove to establish trading rights in Japan, arriving at the island of Hirado in 1613. There he was entertained by the local lord, Matsura Shigenobu, better known by his Buddhist name Hōin. As was common in Japan, Hōin had passed the title of daimyo to his grandson but still held onto power, running things from behind the scenes. Being totally unfamiliar with Japanese society and its protocols, Saris thought Hōin was the ‘King’ of Japan and gave him a lavish gift that included large quantities of cloth, silverware and a pair of gold decorated guns that are described as being ‘double locked’. Being unsure of what to do about the arrival of the English, Hōin sent word to Edo asking the Tokugawa government how he should proceed. While waiting for the reply, Saris tried desperately to keep his sailors occupied to prevent them from escaping ashore and running amok. To this end, on the 25th July, he decided to celebrate the anniversary of King James’ coronation, writing in his diary:
I ordered eleven pieces ordnance to be shot off, our ship to abroad all her gallantry, which the naturals took great notice of, the King (Hōin) much commending our order in remembering our duty. And in the afternoon visiting his majesty at his court, he bestowed on me a fair armour, which he said he would give at this present for he held it of some esteem, having worn it in the wars of Corea. . On receiving news of the arrival of the English, Tokugawa Ieyasu dispatched Will Adams with instructions to escort Saris to Edo to meet the Shogun. At their first meeting Saris notes in his diary that Adams had ‘gone native’, dressing in Japanese clothes, refusing to sleep on the ship and being distant with his countrymen. Nevertheless, he assisted Saris in selecting suitable gifts for Ieyasu and the Shogun, as well as instructing him on how he should behave at the Shogun’s court. On their way to Edo they stopped at Sumpu, Tokugawa Ieyasu’s retirement home, where Saris once again gave presents of cloth, guns and silverware. Ieyasu tried to persuade Saris to set up the English trading station near to Edo but Saris insisting on staying on Hirado. Following this courtesy call, Saris travelled on to Edo where he met with the Shogun who granted the English permission to trade. As was required by protocol, gifts were exchanged, those from Saris being noticeably inferior to those given to Tokugawa Ieyasu. In return Saris was given two armours, a long sword and 12 screens for King James I (and VI). Being a merchant in Japanese eyes and therefore not entitled to wear a long sword, Saris was given what he called a ‘waggadash’; a wakizashi or short sword for himself . Back in Hirado, Saris established a trading station manned by a group of merchants led by Richard Cocks, and left for England calling at the spice islands on the way home.
Officers of the East India Company were strictly forbidden to indulge in private trade, but like most captains, Saris ignored this edict stuffing the ship with spices he bought privately. At a subsequent enquiry one sailor described how Saris would fill the space in the bread-room with spices as soon as a loaf was withdrawn. On their arrival in England, the Clove docked at Plymouth rather than in London, giving Saris an opportunity to unload his illegal cargo away from the prying eyes of the Company. When he finally did reach the capital the ship was seized and searched. To the disgust of the Company, who had already charged Saris with financial irregularities, a quantity of Japanese pornography was found amongst his belongings that was secretly burned at night. Saris was dismissed in disgrace, retiring to the borough of Fulham in London where he lived comfortably for the rest of his life on the proceeds of his journey.
The two armours given to King James are in the usual formal Kansai style and are signed by Iwai Yosaemon of Nara. One was deposited in the armoury at the Tower of London, the other being housed in one of the Royal Palaces. Following the execution of King James’ son, Charles I, much of the royal art collection was sold off to the public, the administration of this process being assigned to the poet and musician George Wither . Amongst the paintings, furniture and other treasures was the Japanese amour from the Royal Collection. It was bought by a Major Bass for the then considerable sum of £10. After the restoration of the monarchy, the armour, along, with much of the art that had been sold off, was recovered and returned to the Royal Collection where it still remains (as AL.290.11 on loan to the Royal Armouries). This armour is somewhat eclectic, consisting of disparate pieces, lacquered and laced to match, although the helmet and dō undoubtedly belong together since they both bear Iwai Yosaemon's signature. There are no kamon, their place being taken by dragons and clouds in gold lacquer; presumably because the armourer tasked with putting the ensemble together was unsure as to King James' heraldry. The other of King James armours (XXVIA.1) remained in the Tower of London, where it became known as the armour of the ‘Great Moghal’, gradually becoming more dilapidated over the centuries. It was returned to Japan in the 1970’s where it was repaired and re-laced. Although polishing has obliterated much of the gold lacquered decoration, one complete kamon remains showing that the armour originally belonged to the Takeda family. It is far too small to have fitted the famous daimyo Takeda Shingen, who was rather corpulent in his later life, and must therefore have belonged to his son Katsuyori. A portrait exists of Katsuyori wearing this same kamon on his clothing. The acquisition of the armour is consistent with the fact that Tokugawa Ieyasu conquered the Takeda homelands in the province of Kai in 1582, when he presumably captured the armour with other Takeda possessions.
Of the armour given to Saris by Matsura Hōin, and the wakizashi given to him by Tokugawa Hidetada, no trace can now be found. Nothing Japanese is listed in Saris’ will, despite the fact that he was presented with a naginata and many other weapons by various daimyo who visited him during his stay on Hirado. (An interesting and possibly unrelated coincidence occurred in 1998. An enquiry was received at the Royal Armouries from a member of the public living on the site of the battle of Edgehill that took place during the Civil War in 1642. It involved the discovery of the very corroded remnants of a sword blade in the garden of the enquirer. The remains, about 18” long, retained a well preserved copper habaki indicating that it was in fact a Japanese blade, almost certainly from a wakizashi. There is no positive evidence that the blade dated from the time of the battle, other than the amount of corrosion. If it was a genuine relic of that battle, someone who fought there was carrying a Japanese wakizashi. As unlikely as this supposition sounds, it is worth noting that Francis Popham, who fought for Parliament, carried a Sri Lankan kastana.)
Whilst the Dutch and English were beginning to open trade with Japan, the Spanish were continuing their trade in silk with China. The major currency used in transactions with the Chinese silk merchants in Manila and Macao was silver; something the Iberians were mining in large quantities in the Americas on the opposite side of the Pacific. Sailing westwards from Mexico using the trade winds was relatively easy, but the return voyage across the pacific against contrary winds proved to be difficult. The problem was finally solved in 1565 when it was realised that the winds circulated in a clockwise gyre, as they did in the Atlantic, and by sailing northwards the ships could pick up the westerlies for the return voyage to Mexico. Within a short time two or three Galeón de Manila, some as large as 2000 tons, were undertaking the voyage each year. The problem of judging longitude had yet to be solved and the exact course taken on the northerly leg of the route was difficult to judge. Far too often the sudden storms and powerful tides in the area forced ships onto the dangerous reefs and rocky shores of Japan.
In 1609 a ship carrying the former governor of the Philippines, Rodrigo de Vivero, was blown into Tokyo bay and wrecked off Chiba. Loaded as it was with silver and other precious cargo it naturally attracted the attention of the Japanese government. de Vivero was summoned to Edo and granted audience with the then Shogun Tokugawa Hidetada and his father Tokugawa Ieyasu. Also present was Luis Sotelo, a Franciscan friar who was fluent in Japanese, who acted as interpreter. During the audience de Vivero pleaded with the Japanese to allowed Spanish ships that found themselves in peril to seek shelter in Japanese ports without having their cargo confiscated. Tokugawa Ieyasu immediately saw the Spanish request as a potential bargaining point that could fulfil a long-term ambition; that of wresting part of the silk trade from the Kyushu daimyo by establishing a Spanish trading post in Edo. de Vivero considered such an arrangement might be possible but pointed out he did not have the authority to make such a decision and that the matter would need to be referred to the Spanish authorities in Mexico. He did however feel that he had sufficient standing to act as advocate for the Japanese case.
Eventually it was decided that a diplomatic mission should travel to Mexico to continue the negotiations. It was agreed that de Vivero would navigate a ship to Mexico accompanied by Tanaka Shosuke, a Japanese bullion dealer. Luis Sotelo offered to travel with the party to act as interpreter but de Vivero preferred Alonso Muños another Franciscan. In due course a ship weighing about 80 tons and named the San Buena Ventura was built by Mukai Shogen, the Tokugawa’s Admiral, and Will Adams. On its completion it sailed with some 40 Japanese and the crew of the wrecked Spanish ship bound for Acapulco. Will Adams refers to the whole affair in his fourth letter:
A great ship of 1000 tons, which came from the Manila, which was cast away upon this coast, wherein the Governor of Manila, to whom the Emperor lent her (the ship made by Adams and Shogen) to carry him to Acapulco, a place in Nova Espania. In Mexico Alonso Muños met with the Viceroy who saw the utility of the proposal and agreed to send an ambassador to Japan to discuss the matter further. The person chosen being Sebastián Vizcaíno, a soldier and adventurer who had mapped parts of California and was familiar with the Philippines and the routes taken by the silver ships. On the mission’s return to Japan, in 1611, Vizcaíno held a series of talks with Tokugawa Ieyasu and the Shogun which were hardly encouraging. Vizcaíno’s total disregard for court etiquette and his arrogant manner alienated the Japanese, the relationship becoming even more strained when Vizcaíno announced he was leaving to try and find the fabled ‘Islands of Gold and Silver’ off the coast of China.
Luis Sotelo, had in the meantime returned to preaching in Edo and heard that a favourite concubine of Date Masamune, Daimyo of Sendai, was seriously ill. Seeing a possible opportunity to make an important convert to his faith, Sotelo offered to treat the lady and succeeded. Out of gratitude Date Masamune invited Sotelo to travel to Sendai and stay as a guest. Furious at Vizcaino’s behaviour and without any immediate prospect of a deal with Spain, the Tokugawa began to re-think their attitude towards the Iberians. The battle of Seki ga Hara that had put the Tokugawa in power had been precipitated by rivalry between the guardians of the young son of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the former Regent of Japan. The child, Toyotomi Hideyori, was now approaching manhood and was becoming a focus for the many thousands who had lost titles, status and land after the battle. Rumours reached Tokugawa ears that the Catholics were showing an interest in Toyotomi Hideyori who was living in his father’s vast castle in Osaka. To make matters worse, there was a bribery scandal involving a court official and the Catholic, daimyo Arima Harunobu. In response, the Tokugawa issued edicts banning all Catholic preachers to leave Edo and its environments and set about destroying their churches in the city. At this stage the daimyo were still able to choose whether they allowed Christianity within their fiefs or not. Once again Will Adams sums up the situation in his sixth letter written in 1616:
Now the Emperor (Shogun) hearing of these Jesuits and Friars being in the Castle (in Osaka) with his enemies and still from time to time against him, commandeth all Romanish sorts to depart out of his country, their churches pulled down and burned. This followed in the old Emperor’s days (ie when Ieyasu was still alive) Ignoring the ban on Christianity, Luis Sotelo, after spending a year in Sendai, returned to Edo, began preaching and in May 1613 even began to construct a new church. The Tokugawa authorities reacted quickly, arresting Sotelo and seven Japanese converts and throwing them in prison. By July their fate was decided and the seven Japanese converts were executed but Sotelo’s life was spared after Date Masamune pleaded on his behalf and promised to give him sanctuary in Sendai.
By the end of the year Vizcaino had returned to Japan having failed to locate the fabled isles, but having successfully surveyed the East Coast of Japan. His re-appearance raised the possibility of a treaty between Japan and Spain yet again, but the Tokugawa felt that none of the Spanish noblemen who had so far been involved really had the authority to agree to one. Vizcaino agreed to accompany a mission, not to Mexico, but to the King of Spain himself. There was however a major stumbling block. Having expelled all of the Iberians and banned Catholicism from Edo, the Tokugawa could hardly be seen to be organising a mission to the Catholic King of Spain. Equally they needed an interpreter and Sotelo was the obvious choice as he owed his life to the clemency of the Tokugawa, but he was in Sendai. Clearly what the Tokugawa needed was a deniable intermediary and since he was acting as host to Sotelo, the obvious candidate was Date Masamune.
It was not only as originators of the mission to Spain that the Tokugawa had to distance themselves, they could not even instruct Date Masamune directly, instead sending their Admiral, Mukai Shogen, to instruct Date to make the necessary arrangements. Shogen and Will Adams were then instructed to build another ship to take the party across the Pacific on the first leg of their journey. To this end some 800 shipwrights, 3000 carpenters and 700 blacksmiths were put to work. Initially named ‘Date Maru’, the ship was completed in only 45 days .
The person chosen by Date Masamune to lead the delegation was Hasekura Rokuemon Tsunenaga (1571 – 1622), the son of a minor vassal who had been executed for a misdemeanour. Put simply, Tsunenaga was given the choice of accepting command of the mission or suffering the same fate as his father. By the 28th October, 1613 the ship, now renamed as 'San Juan Bautista' and captained by Sebastian Vizciano, sailed with Fr. Luis Sotelo, Hasekura Tsunenaga, 12 Tokugawa samurai, some 140 Japanese merchants, servants and sailors and around 40 other Europeans. Also on board was Tanaka Shosuke the bullion dealer who was instructed to explore the possibility of dealing in Mexican silver. Known as the Keicho Mission from the year period in which it sailed, the party had an uneventful crossing of the Pacific, arriving in Acapulco on 25th January 1614. From there the Japanese party travelled to Mexico City where Tanaka and most of the other Japanese stayed to trade and negotiate. Hasekura and his party travelled in a Spanish ship to Havana and finally to Spain, landing in October 1614. During the journey to Madrid the delegation passed through Seville where it is recorded that Hasekura presented the mayor with a daisho.
The meeting with King Philip III took place on the 30th January 1615 when letters from Shogun Tokugawa Hidetada and Date Masamune were presented along with numerous gifts. In a letter to the Pope written by a member of the Borghese family it is recorded that amongst these gifts were five armours. Only one of the armours given to the Spanish can be identified with any certainty. This is the armour with the nio dō that was later to become associated with the fur covered helmet and the limb armour modelled with muscles. This must have been one of Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s armours since no other person would have dared use the imperial heraldry that decorates it.
Although the Borghese letter states that five armours were given to Philip II, only three were intended for the Spanish, two having been left there as gifts for King Louis XIII of France . This is a clear indication that Tokugawa Ieyasu was attempting to establish diplomatic relations with the other great powers in Europe. There is some evidence that Louis XIII was in Spain at the time of Hasekura’s visit and he may have received the gift of armours personally. We know however that the two armours did arrive in Paris since a Japanese armour appears in the inventory of the French royal collection taken in 1673. The entry reads:
No. 337 Une armure à l’Indienne de carton, écorce d’arbre et cuir, lassés de Soye et verny de la chine.
The references to cardboard and bark would seem to have been the perception of a clerk trying to describe the totally unfamiliar lacquered rawhide from which most of the armour was made. However, the fact that the armour is described as being lacquered and laced with silk precludes it from being anything else but Japanese. By coincidence the 1673 inventory stops at item No.337, possibly because it was abandoned, or more likely because subsequent pages are missing. In the 1729 inventory, which is complete, two more armours, numbered 379 and 380, are described with exactly the same words. It is now known that No.380 was in fact an Indian armour from Rajput dating to the 17th century. The two Japanese armours given by Tokugawa Ieyasu are now displayed in the Musée de l’Armée in Paris together with two of the armours that had been given to the Dutch, looted by French revolutionary troops from the Hague in 1795. Both of the two armours from Tokugawa Ieyasu to the French are in the usual Kansai style made by Iwai Yozaemon of Nara. One is somewhat composite with the various elements having different kamon. The kamon on the other French armour is a stylised crane formed into a circle. The bird is depicted as being much more attenuated than later renderings, but almost certainly a kamon used by the Mori family. This armour occurs in a painting done in 1687 by Le Brun (1619 – 1690), on the ceiling of the ‘Hall of Mirrors’ in the Palace of Versailles .
Other items listed in the inventory of the Royal collection can be identified as Japanese, in particular a naginata and several swords. The former is described in the inventory as:
274; Une hallebard de sept pieds et demy de haut, don’t le bois est vernis de la chine par le haut, et de bois de brèsil par en bas, le fer en manière de couttlas.
Amongst the swords listed in the inventory are:
301; Un grand Espadon a la tartare, long de quatre pieds quatre pouces, don’t la poignee est une couroye de cuir, la guarde de cuivre unie, le fourreau de bois vernis.
302; Deux Sabres a la tartare, les poignees de cuir, les guardes de cuivres avec ornemens aussi de cuivre, les fourreaux de bois, l’un verny de noir avec fleurs, l’autre verny de rouge.
303; Un sabre de trois pieds unze pouces de long, a guarde d’argent unie, la poignee de cuir, le fourreau vernis de noir et point blancs.
304; Un petit Sabre de deux pieds, un pouce de long a guarde de fer, poignee de cuir, et fourreau fond noir orne de nacre de perle.
In February 1615 Tsunenaga was baptised in the presence of King Philip III as Don Filipe Francisco Hasekura. Travelling to the coast, the party boarded ship and set off for Italy and an audience with Pope Paul V. En-route the ship had a forced stopover in St. Tropez before reaching Savona where the party changed ship for Italy. In Rome the Japanese finally met the Pontiff and again presented letters and gifts. Although the Pope agreed to the Japanese request to supply more missionaries he decided that the matter of moving the trade to the Kanto and of trading with Mexico were decisions that had to be taken by the Spanish King. Back in Spain, King Philip turned down these requests as news had reached Spain that the Tokugawa were becoming less tolerant of Catholicism.
Having failed in its main purpose, the Keicho mission left Spain, travelling back to Japan via the Philippines where Hasekura acquired a kris and a kastana as gifts for Date Masamune. The ship finally reached Nagasaki in August 1620 only to find that Catholicism had been proscribed. Tokugawa Ieyasu was now dead and there was already a mood abroad that the foreigners should be expelled and the country closed off to all foreign influence. Although the kris and kastana seems to have pleased Masamune, two other gifts proved less than successful. One was a portrait of the Pope and the other a painting of himself, wearing European costume, praying in front of a crucifix . Tokugawa Hidetada wrote a strongly worded letter to Date Masamune admonishing him for sending his vassal to Europe and establishing contact with the head of the Catholic Church. Date replied:
"When I sent a ship to the Southern Barbarian countries several years ago, upon the advice of Mukai Shogen, I also dispatched the Southern Barbarian named Sotelo, who had resided for several years in Edo. At that time, your highness also gave messages for the Southern Barbarians, as well as presents, such as folding screens and sets of armour."
Thus ended the second and final diplomatic visit by the Japanese to Europe.
There were however other routes by which Japanese arms and armour reached Europe. Richard Cocks (1566 – 1624), left behind in Japan by Saris to manage the English Factory, had tried to keep some form of trade going from their base on Hirado. Unfortunately the goods being offered, mainly woollen cloth was of little interest to the Japanese. In addition, Cocks seems to have been preoccupied in using the Japanese base as a springboard to establish trade with China rather than concentrating on trade with the Japanese. Despite this lack of success the English factory was still required to send a delegation to Edo to re-negotiate the trading treaty, and even more importantly to present the Shogun with suitable gifts. On one of these occasions Cocks describes how he was presented with an armour by Tokugawa Hidetada . When the English finally abandoned their factory, this armour would almost certainly be brought to England. It may be the armour illustrated in the picture of the Irish noblemen Sir Neill O’Neill by John Michael Wright (1617 – 1694) painted around 1680, although it may have come from elsewhere. Wright had spent a decade in Italy in the 1640’s and had then served as antiquarian for Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria, Governor of the Spanish Netherlands. Since one of the Dutch armours is unaccounted for, the armour in the painting may have been obtained from that source. There is no mention of any Japanese items in Wright’s will so we do not know whether he owned the armour or had simply borrowed it as a studio prop. He is recorded as having borrowed armour from the Tower of London for that purpose. It seems the Japanese armour had been chosen to emphasise the ‘barbaric splendour’ of the sitter.
The armour depicted by Wright is interesting. At the time it was painted all that seems to have survived was the helmet, with the neck guard detached, the dō, one shoulder guard and one shin guard. In the painting the gold lacquered armour, is shown laced in pale blue and white counter-changed in vertical blocks of colour. The detached neck guard of the helmet has been sprung around the waist, like the culet of a cuirassier armour and the shoulder and the shin guard are mocked up to look like an arm defence. In the background a servant holds the helmet bowl fitted with a tuft of feathers in the tehen kanamono at the top. A curious feature not seen on other armours is the presence of small dark blue silk tassels tied at intervals to the lacing on the armour. The kamon on the armour is that of the Buddhist ‘Wheel of the Law’ and may indicate the armour belonged to the Miyake family. The present whereabouts of this armour, if indeed it still exists, is unknown.
The armours that remained in the Real Armeria proved to have had an interesting subsequent history. King Philip III disposed of three of these armours to his courtier, the Duke of Infantado who owned a vast armoury at his palace in Guadalajara, in Spain. Whether the Japanese armours were a gift or were purchased by the Duke is not known, but the latter is most probable in view of the King’s perpetual lack of funds. An inventory of his armoury taken in 1643 lists three armours as:
More: three armours of the Indies, the two with a black varnished helmets, the other with a golden helmet, one has a breastplate of red leather and on the back a quiver with four arrows, another has a black breastplate like its helmet whilst the other is covered with coloured silk. Two of the armours carry (caranas?) that seem appropriate to have blades.
Since the major part of a red laced armour that belonged to the hair covered helmet is no longer in Madrid, it must have been amongst the armours transferred to Guadalajara. These armours remained in armoury at Guadalajara until the occupation of Spain by France during the Napoleonic wars, when French troops began a wholesale looting of Spanish art. We know that the Duke of Infantado’s palace was plundered, the troops taking several European armours and the Japanese armour described as having red leather on the breastplate and a quiver of arrows. The European armours were deposited in what was then the Musée D’artillerie, now the Musée de l’Armée, but the Japanese armour found its way into the collection of François-Joseph Talma (1763 – 1826). Talma was the son of a Parisian dentist who was sent to England to be educated. On his return to France he practised dentistry himself, becoming increasingly interested in theatricals and eventually joining the Comédie Francaise. He played a significant part in the French Revolution, making friends with many important people like David, Danton and Robspierre. Through his acting he became known to Napoleon who encouraged him in his theatrical career. It was almost certain it was this connection that enabled him to obtain the Japanese armour to add to his considerable collection of exotic costume. Following Talma’s death in 1826 an auction sale was held of his art collection . One lot is described as:
Une armure indienne avec fleches et corquois.
The lot was bought by a M. Fatou, a gunsmith working in Paris in the period from 1780 to 1830. He produced many notable arms, including several guns for Napoleon. He is also known to have been a dealer in antique arms and armour and had formed his own collection of choice pieces. On his death his collection was sold and the Japanese armour with its quiver and four arrows is described.
Lot 284 Armure Chinoise en vielle laque de chine fixée par des tresse en soie. Ventant de la collection de Talma.
Who bought the armour from the Fatou sale is unrecorded but it does appear once more in an auction sale held by Maulde & Renou, Rue Drouot, Paris 18th to 23rd April 1833 in which it is more fully described:
Lot 367 Armure japonaise composée d’un corselet, de tassettes, de brassards, de jambieres et d’un casque en forme de salade avec bavière; le tout lacqué de noir. Elle est accompagnée de son carquois, êgalement laqué et contenant des fleches. .
After this date the armour can no longer be identified in subsequent sales, being lost amongst the armours arriving in Europe from the newly opened Japan. It is perhaps significant however that it was about this time the Turin armoury of the Dukes of Piedmont and Savoy gained its third Japanese armour.
As has already been stated, the history of the armours in the Real Armeria, Madrid ended in tragedy. We know that King Philip II was given at least three armours and that Philip III was supposed to have been given five, of which two were destined for the King of France and three were sold or given to the Duke of Infantado. The catalogue of the Real Armeria for 1793 indicates that the expected three armours remained, catalogued as Nos. 212, 213 and 214. The description given is brief and of no value, saying simply that they are ‘Three very ridiculous armours presented to Philip II by the Emperor of China or the King of Japan’ . By 1849, only two armours are listed, now numbered 2359 and 2396 . Despite this, during the late 19th century photographs show that there were still three armours. Unfortunately all were badly burned in the fire of 1844, but their fragmentary remains do correspond to the drawings and photographs taken before the destruction. In 1834 Blas Zuloaga (1782-1856) and his son Eusebio (1808-1898) from Eibar, both skilled in the decoration of guns and other objects by damascening in gold, were appointed as custodians of the Real Armeria in Madrid and tasked with restoring some of the exhibits. Prior to the appointment, Eusebio had received a grant from the Spanish king to spend some time working with Le Page, a Parisian gun maker. Together Zuloaga and Le Page worked out a scheme to earn themselves a considerable amount of money. Using their position as officials in the pay of the king, the Zuloagas travelled Spain, buying arms and armour from the then impoverished Spanish nobility. These were then shipped to Le Page, who acted as their agent, selling the items on the Parisian art market . Mixed with the legitimate objects was a sprinkling of items, usually minor pieces that would not be missed, stolen from the Real Armeria. Before long another agent was found in London but the records of the London auction houses are silent as to whom this might have been. It was in these Paris and London sales that we meet with the remaining two armours from the Duke of Infantado’s collection. The first of these appeared in a sale held by Mention & Wagner, Paris, in 1838:
Lot 230. Armure japonaise – laquée sur fer compose d’un masque en fer laqué en noire, d’un casque avec ornaments et garniture en bronze doré, d’un cuirass épaulieres et tassets formant cuissards, composée de bandelettes unies entre elles pardes lecets de soie et de guanteletes et brassards dans le même. Cette armoure curreuse est des plus rare.
(Japanese armour – of lacquered iron comprising a black lacquered iron mask, a helmet with ornaments and crests of gilded bronze, a cuirass, shoulder guards and tassets that act as cuisses, composed of bands united by silk and gauntlets and sleeves of the same. This armour is curious and very rare.)
In another sale, held on 29th April 1841 and the following two days, at Oxenham’s rooms in London, there was advertised another armour,
Lot 440. A SUIT OF MOORISH ARMOUR believed to be unique, and supposed to have been worn by the MOORS OF GRANADA previous to their expulsion from Spain; the entire suit, (the helmet especially) exhibits a decided approach, in form, to the plate armour of the Europeans; it is composed of blackened steel plates of fine temper, and comprises the helmet, with metoniere, back and breast plates, arms gauntlets and tassets – from the Royal Armoury of Segovia.
Although there had been armour in the Royal Palace in Segovia in the 16th century, it had been transferred to the Real Armeria in Madrid by King Philip II. In 1892 a collector called Don Nicolas Duque, who lived in Segovia, loaned 137 pieces of armour to the Real Armeria for an exhibition, but the dates indicate he was not the source of this one. Many of the pieces in both of these sales can be traced back to the Real Armeria, indicating the source of these armours was the Zuloagas and their partners. There had been what might be this same ‘Moorish’ armour in a sale held at Christies in January 1839. One lot is described as: ‘… parts of a suit of Moorish black horn armour’. It is possible that the author of the catalogue mistook the lacquered iron plates for horn, but more likely it is a typographical error and what is being described is a Moro armour from the Philippines made of horn plates linked by brass mail. Almost certainly the armour in the Oxenham sale, like that in the 1838 sale in Paris, came from the Duke of Infantado’s collection and can be identified as that described as having a ‘black breastplate like its helmet’.
Unusually for this period, the 1841 catalogue contained illustrations of some of the principle items, including lot 440. From the illustration it is obvious that the armour was in a very dilapidated condition. The artist made numerous mistakes in his attempt to depict this unusual and exotic object. The dō is reversed so that the opening is down the front rather than at the back, the armour being a haramaki . The narrow sei ita or back plate, made to fit over the opening, has been fitted inside the dō behind the opening. The sode, or shoulder guards have been mistaken for European style tassets and are shown hung upside down from the waist. Strangest of all is that the sleeves have been transposed, left to right, and visually extended. They are in fact sleeves in which the mail and plate elements reached to just above the elbow. The artist has drawn them as being full length, the circular elbow plate being positioned at the armpit.
Lot 440 of the Oxenham’s sale was bought by the Armouries at the Tower of London, which was acquiring interesting items at that time to add to its collection. It was probably there that the armour was re-laced, using a green worsted braid in place of the original silk. An old photograph of the Horse Armoury at the Tower, taken about 1860, shows the armour (now catalogued as XXVIA.2) on a dummy stood in front of a pillar holding a curved sword and equipped with suitably curly-toed shoes to give credence to its Moorish origins. Interestingly, these same curly-toed shoes still exist in the Oriental Collection. During the first part of the 20th century the armour, now recognised as being Japanese, was confused with one of the armours given to King James. It was only recognised as the one bought in 1841 during the second half of the century.
The armour is technically a mogami haramaki. Armours of mogami construction have the traditional rows of scales replaced by solid plates, each plate in the dō being individually hinged in four places to allow it to be opened to put on. The sei ita, a separate narrow plate with its own kusazuri fastens to the dō behind the shoulders and is held in place by the waist belt. Decorating the armour are gilded copper plaques held by gilded rivets engraved with the kamon originally used by the Shimazu family of Satsuma. This takes the form of the character for the number 10, ju, in a circle. By the late 1500’s, most of the Shimazu had replaced the ju character by a geometric cross that joined the outer border, giving a shape similar to the cheek piece of a horse bit. It is said that the reason for this change was to avoid the confusion with a Christian cross. Indeed, for quite a time in the 1960 and 1970’s the armour was thought to have belonged to Naito Yukiyasu, a Christian daimyo exiled to Manilla because the kamon does indeed look like a Christian cross in a circle. However, a close examination of these rivets shows the presence of a small upward tick at the base of the upright showing it is in fact a character ju.
A careful examination has revealed a fragment of original black lacing survived trapped between two plates confirming that this armour is none other than that described in the 1603 order of transfer from the Treasure House to the Real Armeria in Madrid. The helmet also corresponds in that it is described in the movement order as having a gilded leather panache or crest and in front a crest with a cross; the Shimazu kamon. Although these crests were lost long ago, the helmet has two large prongs on top for the gilded crest and another in the front on the brow. Also described in the document are the gilded copper plaques fastened in place by gilded copper rivets decorated with the same kamon. There are four on the dō and one survives on the hand-guard, exactly as described in the document.
In summary; there remains around Europe a number of early Japanese armours. Armours which once belonged to people who played very important roles in the unification of Japan. The remains of three, now very badly burned, are in the Real Armeria, Madrid, four are in the Musée de l’Armée, Paris, two are in Schloss Ambras, Austria, two are in the Royal Danish Kunstkammer, Copenhagen and three are in the Royal Armouries, distributed between Leeds and the Tower of London. There was one complete armour in the Royal Armoury in Turin in the late 19th century, together with parts of another, but they are now missing other than one helmet.
Several other armours are known to have been in Europe, but their present whereabouts is unknown. One of the armours given to the Dutch is lost, as is that depicted in the painting of Sir Neil O’Neil, although they may be one and the same. There is no evidence of the fate of the armour given to Saris by Matsuura Hōin, or to that given to Cocks unless the latter is that in the Wright painting. Assuming that the armours in Copenhagen originated in Italy, there is also the mystery of the red laced armour in Madrid, that is described as having a hair covered helmet. It is almost certainly one of the three that went to Gadalajara and was subsequently sold in Paris. Of the people to whom these various armours belonged, one of the Royal Armouries Museum armours can be shown to have belonged to Takeda Katsuyori. Another was almost certainly the property of a prominent member of Shimazu family in the 1570’s or 1580’s. One of the armours in Austria belonged to Hideyoshi, whilst two of those in Paris may have belonged to him or to his son, as does one in Madrid. Unfortunately, Japanese heraldry is not as precise as that used in Europe and it has not been possible to positively identify the owners of some of the other armours, despite them being decorated with kamon. It is hoped that this might change as more information becomes available.
Tokugawa Ieyasu’s Silver Telescope: A Gift from King James I, and the Meaning of Artistic Exchange Between England and Japan, 1613-1623
Timon Screech - Professor of the History of Art, SOAS, University of London Thursday, November 13, 2014 - 4:00pm to 5:30pmAdd to Calendar Auditorium, Henry R. Luce Hall See map 34 Hillhouse Avenue New Haven, CT 06511
The Council is pleased to present the Sixteenth Annual John W. Hall Lecture in Japanese Studies.
In 1611, the English East India Company, founded in 1600, dispatched its first ship destined for Japan, which duly arrived in summer 1613. The Company had prepared an elaborate letter from the King to the Japanese ruler, as well as an appropriate gift. Ieyasu was presented with a silver gilt ‘prospective glasse’. It was the first telescope to leave Europe, and the first to be built as a presentation object.
The talk will consider the meaning of such a object - what the English meant by it, and why the East India Company (which was a spice trading organization) was sailing to Japan at all.
Timon Screech is currently a Visiting Research Scholar in East Asian Studies at Yale University during the Fall 2014 semester. He was born in Birmingham, UK, and received a B.A. (Hons.) in Oriental Studies (Japanese) at Oxford, before completing his Ph.D at Harvard in 1991. He also studied at the universities of Geneva and Gakushuin. He has taught the history of Japanese art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, since 1991, and in 2006 became Professor of the History of Art. He is also Head of the Department of the History of Art & Archaeology, and Head of the School of Arts (SOAS-SOA).
Screech is the author of some dozen books on the visual culture of the Edo period. His Ph.D was published as The Lens Within the Heart: The Western Scientific Gaze and Popular Imagery in Later Edo Japan (CUP 1996) and is still in print in a second edition (Curzon, 2002). Perhaps his best-known work is Sex and the Floating World: Erotic Images in Japan, 1700-1820 (Reaktion, 1999; second, expanded edition, 2009). More recently, he has introduced and edited the writings of two 18th-century travelers, as, Japan Extolled and Decried: Carl Peter Thunberg and the Shogun’s Realm, 1775-1796 (Routledge, 2005), and Secret Memoirs of the Shoguns: Isaac Titsingh and Japan, 1779-1822 (Routledge, 2006). His field-defining general study, Obtaining Images: Art, Production and Display in Edo Japan was published in 2012 (Reaktion Books/Hawaii University Press). His numerous writings have been translated into French, Japanese, Korean, Polish and Romanian. He is currently working on the early history of the East India Company, and its role in cultural exchange.
Please RSVP to (link sends e-mail)firstname.lastname@example.org (link sends e-mail) by 11/6/14 Light reception to follow talk in Luce Common Room
Eric, Capt. Saris, who led the mission to Japan, kept a diary and although he does mention that the gifts to Tokugawa Ieyasu did include silverware, he does not say it was a telescope. He does mention 'gold damasked pieces' among the gifts for various people, one being 'double locked'. By far the most important items in the gifts, judging by their position in the lists, were woolen cloth and calicos. Ian B
Many thanks again to our esteemed, erudite and generous elder statesman ("elder" only being a numeric and not a true age reference, and said with the utmost of respect and deference). Methinks a knighthood is in order.