Important Cultural PropertyBronze medal (Blessed Virgin Mary without Original Sin)

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  • Bronze
  • L10.5xW7.4
  • Azuchi-Momoyama-Edo period/Late 16th century-Early 17th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • C-708

 Materials related to Christianity in feudal Japan that the Tokyo National Museum currently owns include paintings, statues, medals, crosses, rosaries and fumi-e (a board with a likeness of Christ or Mary, on which the authorities required suspected Christians to step). Goods confiscated from Christians by the Nagasaki magistrate's office constitute the core part of these materials and feature clear provenance.
It is known that Nagasaki Prefecture, which had taken over these materials after the Meiji Restoration, handed them collectively to the then Ministry of Education in 1874 since they were at a loss with what to do with them when foreigners requested that the prefecture sell the fumi-e to them. Later, these materials came under the jurisdiction of the Temples and Shrines Department of the Ministry of Home Affairs and then a museum (the predecessor of the Tokyo National Museum) that belonged to the Museum Department of the Ministry of Home Affairs took them over.
 Among the paintings, the "Three Saints" is a large oil painting on fabric. While Christian missionaries brought many paintings into Japan, it seems that there were very few large ones due to the long journey and for preservation's sake and most oil paintings were drawn on small copper plates. Among them, "Oyayubi no Mary" (literally, Mary the Thumb) is said to have been possessed by an Italian missionary Giovanni Sidotti (1667 – 1714), who was captured after infiltrating Yaku Island in 1708. The painting is so called because Mary's thumb can be seen from between her clothes.
 The statues include images of Christ made of lead and relieved images made of abalone. The "White Porcelain Kannon Bodhisattva" (Mary Kannon) is an image of Kannon made of white porcelain produced at the Tokka kiln in Fujian, China. In the midst of severe persecution, Christians used Kannon images as Mary and admired them in secret. Most of these statues are those that were confiscated by the Nagasaki magistrate's office in 1855 when the third roundup at Urakami was conducted. For many of them, the original owners can be identified.
 Priest Petitjean of The Society of Foreign Missions of Paris came to Nagasaki in 1865 after Japan had opened the country to the world and brought many crosses, medals and rosaries with him for the propagation of Christianity. He gave them to believers in Urakami, but most of them were confiscated during the fourth Urakami roundup in 1867. He also brought medals and parts of rosaries found in Fukuchiyama, Kyoto with him.
 It is said that the practice of fumi-e to identify practicing Christians and sympathizers began in the early Kanei era (1624 – 1643). At the beginning, paintings of Christ and the Virgin Mary drawn on paper were used. However, since they wore out quickly and there were not many of them available, the authorities began to use "ita fumi-e," a copper medal inserted into a thick board. Currently, there are 19 brass fumi-e that the Nagasaki magistrate's office had Yûsuke Hagiwara and other casters make in 1669.