On the 400th Anniversary of the English East India Company in Japan: 1613–2013
A Forgotten Episode in Cultural History
Japan400 co-chair Professor Timon Screech will outline events leading up to arrival of the English in Japan, and their relevance to the history of porcelain
2013 represents the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the English East India Company in Japan, in a single ship, the Clove, which arrived in the summer of 1613.
Its cape merchant (or leader) took presents from King James to the shogun and retired shogun, and received reciprocal gifts, some of which are extant. He then returned to England with many Japanese artefacts, including lacquer, paintings and (not for sale, but for his own amusement) erotica.
The lacquer was sold in London in December 1614, and therefore constitutes England's first ever auction of art objects of any kind; the paintings were auctioned the next spring; in the interim, the erotica had been confiscated by the Company and destroyed. King James received his presents which were armour (extant) and paintings (at least some were sold off by Cromwell, and all are now lost).
Additionally, later sailings from London would take out to Japan cultural objects (not necessarily of English make) such as paintings, ceramics and prints. It will be argued in this lecture that the movement of such goods, in both directions, had a much larger artistic and intellectual impact that is normally allowed.