Focus on the Peck Collection: Japanese Emissaries in Sixteenth-Century Europe

July 7, 2022 - October 16, 2022

In 1585, a delegation of four Christian Japanese boys from the island of Kyushu arrived in Europe to meet some of the most important political and religious figures of the period, chief among them King Philip II of Spain and popes Gregory XIII and Sixtus V. Known as The Boys’ Embassy of the Tenshō Period, the voyage promoted the Jesuit order’s missionary activities in Japan on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church. The boys were treated as distinguished visitors, honored with banquets and festivals in Portugal, Spain, and Italy.

Eighty years after this historic event, Flemish painter Abraham van Diepenbeeck created a drawing of a specific aspect of the trip—the encounter between The Boys’ Embassy and King Phillip II of Spain. This Focus on the Peck Collectioninstallation presents Van Diepenbeeck’s drawing alongside the engraving based on it, published in the 1667 book Kerckelycke historie van de gheheele wereldt (The Ecclesiastical History of the Whole World). Dedicated to the history of the Church’s missionary activities, the richly illustrated book became a standard resource for many Europeans to learn about distant cultures, including Japan.

Image Caption:

Abraham van Diepenbeeck, Flemish, 1596-1675, King Phillip II of Spain Receiving the Japanese Delegation in Madrid, c. 1667, black chalk, gray and brown washes with white highlights on paper, 11 ¼ x 7 3/16 in. (28.6 x 18.3 cm). Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Peck Collection, 2017.1.121.

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