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Folding screen depicting late Edo trading post in Nagasaki Bay found in Netherlands

The folding screen by Edo period painter Kawahara Keiga depicting the scenery of Nagasaki Bay. (Photo taken by Rene Gerritsen and provided courtesy of the Netherlands' Museum Volkenkunde)

BRUSSELS -- The Netherlands' Museum Volkenkunde (National Museum of Ethnology) announced on July 4 the discovery in the country of a large folding screen depicting Nagasaki Bay painted by the late Edo period artist Kawahara Keiga, who had been given permission to go in and out of the Dutch trading post of Dejima in Nagasaki during the period.

Kawahara is known to have created many genre paintings and paintings of animals and plants at the request of German physician Philipp Franz von Siebold of the Dutch trading post, but the folding screen is the only known work of its kind by the painter. It will be displayed at the museum from July 5.

The screen, which depicts Dejima, along with Chinese and other boats anchored in Nagasaki Bay in a picture spread across eight panels, stands 171 centimeters tall and measures 470 centimeters across.

Part of the folding screen depicts the Dejima trading post in detail. (Photo taken by Rene Gerritsen and provided courtesy of the Netherlands' Museum Volkenkunde)

According to the museum's announcement, it is believed to have been painted around 1836, based on the fact that it depicts a Dutch vessel that made only one voyage to Nagasaki Bay. It is believed to have been commissioned by a wealthy resident of Dejima.

The museum, which holds over 500 pieces by Kawahara, has hailed the painter as a "photographer without a camera," taking note of the fine brushstrokes in his art.

Conservator Daan Kok told the Mainichi Shimbun the folding screen was valuable as a large work of art showing a scene of trade between Japan and the Netherlands. It incorporates perspective -- a technique seen in Western art at the time -- and Kok described it as a "hybrid" work combining the Japanese art format of a folding screen with painting methods drawing on Western art techniques to depict trade between Japan and the Netherlands, and Japan and China.

(Japanese original by Kosuke Hatta, Brussels Bureau)

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