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Seeing across cultures

Seeing across cultures in the early modern world

Perspective and its discontents or St. Lucy's Eyes

About the book chapter

Hidden for centuries inside a hollow piece of bamboo, far from the watchful eyes of the inquisitors charged with routing out Christianity, the Madonna and Child with the Fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary and Saints Ignatius, Francis Xavier, Matthew and Lucy thematizes sight in the complicated vision it presents. Drawing on important recent studies exploring the place of Western perspective and optical devices in early modern Japanese visuality by scholars of Japanese art like Kishi, Oka, and Screech, one’s own training in Western art history leads them to ask what, if any, lessons can this particular example of cross-cultural exchange offer the writing of European art history. Whether images were viewed as inherently Western and/or Christian, disturbingly adrift and floating or simply emptied, even eviscerated, of their center, the introduction of linear perspective used and adapted, did not prove to be a transformative event for early modern Japan.

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About the author

Yoriko Kobayashi-Sato is Adjunct Professor of Foreign Studies at Tokyo University.  Research areas: Philosophy, Aesthetics and Art history.