Cherubs and banners

By William Wetherall

First posted 23 July 2005
Last updated 20 January 2008

Tokyo nichinichi shinbun onishiki
Yoshiiku, circa 1874-08
Tokyo nichinichi shinbun
Yoshiiku, seal 1874-10
Yubin hochi shinbun
Toshinao [Tentative], c1874

Plump putto publicists

You may have noticed the bare-butt putti holding the banners of the news nishikie to the right. No? Well, look again. Banners borne by boys with wings are common on news nishikie. Ochiai Yoshiiku (1833-1904), in association with the publisher Gusokuya, seems to have been the first to use such a design on a woodblock print, beginning with the Tokyo nichinichi shinbun onishiki promotional sheet published during the summer of 1874.

The announcement of the start of Yubin hochi shinbun news nishikie featured an unfurled banner but no cherubs. Stage 1 and 2 YHS news nishikie showed the title of the source paper in a conventional box cartouche (see Cartouches below). Stage 3 prints are defined by variations of the banner used on the promo print, but again without cherubs (see YHS Three States under Articles).

Where did Yoshiiku, if not Gusokuya or someone else associated with the design of the Tonichi news nishikie, come up with the idea of a masthead featuring cherubs holding a banner? Are there earlier examples in Japan? On domestic art or printed matter, whether nishikie, kawaraban, or maps? On on art or printed matter brought into Japan from other countries?

Kuniyoshi's library

There are tens of thousands of items in publicly accessible collections and books in Japan. I have seen a few thousand items, mostly nishikie and kawaraban in books and mooks covering the late Edo and early Meiji periods, roughly two decades before and after 1868. However, I have yet to find a single item that could have inspired Yoshiiku's cherub-borne banner design.

Since cherubs originated in Europe, perhaps Yoshiiku got the idea from something he had seen in a work or publication of European or possibly American origin. Yoshiiku probably crossed paths with all sorts of people in the late 1860s and early 1870s. He might have seen something somewhere, brought to Japan from Europe long ago, or brought more recently by an American or European, or by a Japanese who had traveled abroad on one of the several missions the government had sponsored during the late Edo and early Meiji years.

Yoshiiku might have seen something in the library of his mentor, Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861). Kuniyoshi is known to have built a respectable collection of materials related to European art. All of his disciples, most notably Yoshiiku, designed a number of prints that intentionally incorporated European elements of style in portraits and landscapes. Yet there are no cherubs on such prints, or on any prints I have seen by Kuniyoshi or his disciples -- until Yoshiiku's Tonichi news nishikie.

Cartouches representing unrolled scrolls appear on a number of pre-Meiji woodblock prints, as scrolls are a familiar form in Japan. Cartouches resembling bulletin boards also appear. But not banners of the sort that unfurl, much less banners held in the air by cherubs. The only example I have seen of a cartouche held by hands, though of men rather than cherubs, which predates the Tonichi news nishikie, is on a 1861 print designed by Yoshiiku (see Bankoku danjo jinbutsu zue below).

The Illustrated London News

Yoshiiku apparently saw issues of the Illustrated London News in the early 1860s. The few pictures I have seen of this paper do not show cherub-borne banners. I queried The Illustrated London News Picture Library in the UK. Staff kindly looked for cherubs on the front pages of issues from the early 1860s but reported that saw no cherubs.

I have not made an exhaustive study of mastheads on other contemporary European or American newspapers that Yoshiiku might have seen. But the mastheads I have seen of other mid 19th century papers have not had cherub-borne banners.

Other possible sources

What else might Yoshiiku have seen?

Cherubs are not uncommon in European decorative art. They appear on furniture and silverware. They are found on buildings and other monuments.

Perhaps Yoshiiku saw a painting or engraving or even a photograph of cherubs holding the capitol of a column or a cornice. Or of cherubs above the arched portal at the entrance of a building, holding an unrolled scroll which shows the building's name and dedication. Or of cherubs holding a coat-of-arms on a mansion. Or of cherubs at the corners of a family name cartouche on a tombstone. Or of cherubs looking down on from the vaulting of a cathedral or chapel.

Most likely sources

A more obvious source, however, would be Christian art, simply because cherubs are usually associated with Christianity, and Christianity had come to Japan in the 16th century (see Cherubs and Banners in Christian Art below).

A less obvious but more likely candidate turns out to be European maps, which often featured cherubs and other holding banners or banner-like cartouches showing titles, scales, or legends (see Cherubs and Banners on Maps below).

Osaka nichinichi shinbun 254
Shigehiro, after 1874-12-27
Nichinichi shinbun 6
Sadanobu II, circa 1875

Other news nishikie

Many other print publishers in Tokyo and Osaka jumped into the news nishikie market pioneered by Gusokuya's Tokyo nichinichi shinbun nishikie. Most of them adopted a similar masthead design, featuring the name of their news nishikie on an unfurled banner held in the air by a pair of plump putti.

Osaka nichinichi shinbun flattered Yoshiiku by adopting a similar horizontal design, while Nichinichi shinbun, Shinbun zue, and Osaka nishikie shinbun featured vertical variations.

Yoshiiku even flattered himself when he used an adaptation of the same cherub-borne banner masthead on Japan's first true illustrated vernacular newspaper, which he helped launch in 1875 (see Tokyo eiri shinbun below).

Mameban news nishikie
Eiri shinbun 4
Chikashige, after circa 1875-04
Yosha Bunko
Double mameban news nishikie
Eiri shinbun 18 / Yomiuri shinbun 109
Chikushige, after circa 1875-05
Copped and cropped from Shimonaka 1980.1:8)

Mameban news nishikie

In addition to oban (roughly B4) news nishikie in Tokyo, and chuban (roughly B5) news nishikie in Kansai, some rather crude news nishikie were published as mameban ("bean prints"), which were miniature prints, some as large as half a chuban (roughly B6), others as small as a playing card.

Both prints shown here are attributed to [Morikawa] Chikashige (dates unknown), who judging from his name may have been a student of Kunichika.

The first print, in color, is not much larger than a playing card. The print was based on a story in the Number 4 issue of Hiragana eiri shinbun, a bi-daily which published its first issue on 17 April 1875. This print, then, would be later than April 1875.

Double duty cherubs

The second print, scanned from a black-and-white reproduction in the Meiji (first) volume of Shimonaka Kunihiko's Meisaku sashie zenshu [Complete collection of famous illustrations] (Tokyo: Heibonsha, 1979-1981), features two mameban prints on a single sheet. The right half is Eiri shinbun Number 18, hence late May 1875. The left half is Yomiuri shinbun Number 109, which would have come out about the same time, since the Yomiuri, a daily paper, published its first issue on 2 November 1874.

Most interesting about this print is the use of three cherubs to hold two banners, so the cherub in the middle has to pull double duty. They are holding what looks more like unrolled scrolls than unfurled banners.

But the cherubs are very similar to the plump putti on Tokyo nichinichi shinbun nishikie mastheads. In fact, the face of the middle cherub is that of the Stage 2 cherub then in use on TNS news nishikie (see TNS Four Stages under Articles). The Eiri, of course, had adopted the Tonichi nishikie cherubs and banners on its earliest issues (see Tokyo eiri shinbun below).

Martial cherubs on banzuke of military words
in the news during Seinan War of 1877
Copped from Heibonsha.
Copy in source truncated.

Cherubs join the army and see Kyushu

This fascinating banzuke (see Cherubs on Mitate Banzuke below) was published in August of 1877 near the end of the Seinan War that began in January that year. It is a "first edition" ()" [possibly "new edition" (V)] of a "War newspaper dictionary" [Senso shinbun jibiki] featuring "Chinese words" [kango] that frequented newspapers at the time.

Above the selected compounds are their Sino-Japanese pronuciations. Below are their meanings in Japanese.

The cherub on the right, in proper military uniform, represents the government army. The cherub on the left is dressed in standard disenfranchised samurai rebel chic complete with headband.

Source: Heibonsha 1978.3:51.

Jesters on sword banzuke, 1893
Compliments of Petrie-Rogers Gallery
Cherubs on kabuki banzuke, 1894
Compliments of Petrie-Rogers Gallery

Cherubs on mitate banzuke

As we have already seen, Yoshiiku's Tonichi news nishikie masthead was widely emulated by other news nishikie. It also had a continuing impact on masthead and cartouche design of other publications as the Meiji era unfurled. Two interesting variations appear on a series of mitate banzuke published in the mid 1890s.

A banzuke is a ranked list, typically of sumo wrestlers that are to compete in a tournament, or actors that are to appear in a play. Such banzuke function as programs or playbills. A mitate is a likening of one thing to another, as a comparison, analogy, or parody. A typical mitate banzuke is a list and rank things in a manner analogous to a ranked list of sumo wresters. Mitate banzuke may also divide a list into "right/left" halves, again analogous to the "east/west" division of a sumo banzuke.

The banzuke format is used to compare or rank virtually any subject, ranging from popular drawers to the best spas and restaurants, good and bad housewives, whatever. The format is commonly used today in magazines to list the best or worst this or that, in terms of price, quality, popularity, whatever.

Sword banzuke

The first of the two banzuke shown on the right is a "Meiji 26 [1893] revised new edition" [Meiji nijuroku-nen kaisei shinpan] of a banzuke entitled "New swords / Mirror of famous blades" [Shinto / Meiken (Mei tsurugi) kagami]. The swords are listed by place and smith, in the order of sumo ranks, beginning with Ozeki -- there are no Yokozuna. Some of the place names, including Edo, fell off official maps at the start of the Meiji period in 1868.

Knowing nothing about swords, I cannot tell if the list is serious or playful. I suspect the latter. The jesters (?) holding the banner certainly seem to be having fun. The one on the right is looking at the banner through a telescope. The one on the right is brandishing a brush. Notice a simpler right-left distribution of telescope and brush on the masthead of Tokyo eiri shinbun (see Tokyo eiri shinbun Mastheads below).

At least two earlier banzuke of similar design, one on arts, one on famous places, both with Meiji 24 nen kaisei shinpan [1891 revised new edition] banners, show jesters (?) right and left holding brushes (Seen 19 August 2005 at antiquarian book fair in Ikebukuro).

Kabuki actor banzuke

The second banzuke is a called "Meiji 27 [1894] big new edition" [Meiji nijushichi-nen daishinpan] and is a " Comparison of Tokyo actors" [Tokyo haiyu (yakushi) mitate]. The actors are kabuki actors. This is not a kabuki playbill but just a list of actors, shown with (apparently) the crests of their families. Again, I do not know enough to determine whether the list is playful. The cherubs are older than Yoshiiku's.

Tokyo eiri shinbun mastheads

Tokyo eiri shinbun

Hiragana eiri shinbun was started by Ochiai Yoshiiku, Takabatake Ransen, Nishida Densuke, and Okada Jisuke, all connected with the Tokyo nichinichi shinbun. The first issue was published on 17 April 1875 as a bi-daily.

The paper became a daily, and its changed to Tokyo hiragana eiri shinbun, from 2 September the same year. Takabatake is named as the editor from September through December. From January the following year he moved to Yomiuri Shinbun.

From 2 March 1876 the paper became simply Tokyo eiri shinbun. It ceased publication in March 1889.

Eiri as sister publication of Tonichi

Hiragana eiri shinbun was published by Hiragana Eiri Shinbunsha, a company set up by Nipposha. From 16 April 1875, the day before the first issue, Tonichi ran a total of eight ads promoting the new paper, announcing the establishing of this new company and its paper. Apparently these ads were not run in other papers.

The ads state that, as its name implies, the new paper will use mostly hiragana and will not use "kango far from the ear" [mimitooki kango], and it every issue will include ample illustrations. The ads also specify that Tonichi will distribute the first three issues free of charge to all its own readers, which suggests that Nipposha intended Eiri and Tonichi be sister publications.

Eiri as replacement of Tonichi nishikie

Yoshiiku and Takabatake, while working at Nipposha's Tokyo nichinichi shinbun, were also busy drawing and writing for Gusokuya's Tonichi nishikie. Having launched the illustrated paper in April 1875, they gave less time to the news nishikie. In fact, it is very clear that the number of news nishikie issues begins to drop during the summer, and the last datable issues, reporting mostly June stories, have August approval seals.

The last seventeen (17) Tonichi nishikie draw stories from fifteen (15) May and June issues and two (2) early July issues of Tonichi. Seven (7) have approval seals, all dating August 1875. All but three stories are signed, and all the signed stories are attributed to Tentendo (Takabatake).

From September -- precisely at this juncture when Tonichi news nishikie vanish (the handfull of prints that appeared in the fall of 1876 are not, strictly speaking, part of this series) -- Eiri changes its name and becomes a daily, and Takabatake formally takes the editorial Helm.

It is clear, then, that Yoshiiku and Takabatake abandon the Tokyo nichinichi shinbun nishikie series during the period they are launching Hiragana eiri shinbun.

Tsuchiya goes so far as to suggest that the Tonichi nishikie directly led to the start of the Eiri as an illustrated paper. Both publications, she says, shared the idea of showing news as pictures -- pictures drawn, and news written, by the same new media mavericks.

Et tu, Gusokuya?

If not from Eiri's conception, then very shortly after its birth, during the very early weeks and months of its infancy, Yoshiiku and Takabatake saw that the Tonichi nishikie had no future, at least not for them. Gusokuya might have found others to continue to draw and write selected stories, but apparently he saw no profit in doing so.

Only occasionally, in late 1876, did Gusokuya, as Fukuda Kumajiro, resurrect the cherub-borne Tonichi banner on a few prints, mostly triptychs of rebellions on the eve of the Seinan War, which broke out in January 1877. In publishing such prints, Fukuda was probably exploiting public interest in the civil disturbances, analogous to putting out special issues today of magazines and other publications full of photographs of a recent major disaster or even felicitous event.

Sources: Tsuchiya 1995:22-24, 2000:83-85.

Tokyo eiri shinbun masthead
2nd Issue, 19 April 1875
Copped and cropped from Tsuchiya 1995

1874 Eiri cherub masthead

If Yoshiiku lost interest in Gusokuya's Tonichi nishikie, he did not lose faith in its cherub-borne banner. The Hiragana eiri shinbun masthead was clearly adapted from the Tonichi nishikie masthead.

The furl on the right of the banner shows the date, Meiji-8-4-19, or 19 April 1875. The furl on the left states that it is published every other day, and that it is the second issue (the first issue having been published on 17 April).

The masthead is done entirely by hand. The text in the paper, however, has been printed with moveable type, which in just a few years had replaced woodblocks as the means of printing text in newspapers and magazines.

Source: Tsuchiya 1995:25.

Tokyo eiri shinbun handbill, 1876
Copped from Newspark 2001

1876 Eiri cherub handbill

The earliest issues of Tokyo nichinichi shinbun, which began in the spring of 1872, were printed off woodblocks on which the text had been hand carved. Yoshiiku was instrumental in introducing moveable type presses at Nipposha. Moveable type had become the standard for newspapers by the spring of 1875, when helped launch Hiragana eiri shinbun.

By spring 1876, when Eiri began its third phase as Tokyo eiri shinbun, its masthead also sometimes used moveable type, as it does on this handbill [hikifuda], dated March 1876. The handbill advertises the new name, shown in a rather stiff banner held at either end by the familar plump putti. The two characters, on the folds at either end, read "kankyo" and indicate that the paper is one the government has permitted to be published.

Source: Newspark 2001: 63.
From Araya Bunko at Mainichi Shinbun.

Tokyo eiri shinbun masthead, 1877
Yosha Bunko

Later Eiri cherub masthead

The ornate masthead to the right began to be used sometime before this edition, Issue 668 of 6 September 1877, a Thursday. The cherubs have lost their wings and are now printer's helpers.

Notice the telescope and globe on the right, and the painter's palette with brushes on the left. On the Sword Banzuke (see Cherubs on Mitate Banzuke above), the jester on the right is looking through a telescope, and the jester on the left is holding a brush.

Bankoku danjo jinbutsu zue cartouche
Yoshiiku 1861 Bankoku danjo jinbutsu zue
Copped and cropped from AK-Antiek

Alien cherubs

Yoshiiku's "Bankoku" (All nations) print is a true masterpiece of realism and humor in late Edo art. It shows how Yoshiiku exhaled the air he inhaled in the creative atmosphere of Kuniyoshi's tutelage. Kuniyoshi died in 1861, the year this print was published. It is somehow appropriate to think of it as Yoshiiku's tribute to his mentor's talent for treating the serious and absurd with impartial irreverence.

The print is literally a "Drawing of figures of men and women of all nations" except Japan and a number of other countries, some of them listed on the banner at the top, others not. Europeans and Asians are fairly evenly represented, and some imaginary peoples are thrown in for good laughs.

The people are identified by cartouches, which have been translated from right to left, as the print is meant to be read. Lower middleground cartouches are in the Foreground list. Upper middleground cartouches are in the Background list.

Dramatis persona

30 cartouches label 33 figures representing 14 real countries (25 figures) and 6 fabulous or imaginary countries or places (8 figures). Here is the breakdown for the actual countries in ABC order, is as follows.

2 America (MF)
1 Australia (M)
4 China (3M, 1W)
4 England (M, 3F)
1 Ezo (M)
2 France (MF)
2 Holland (MF)
2 India (MF)
1 Korea (M)
1 Mongolia (M)
2 Russia (MF)
1 Ryukyu (M)
1 Spain (M)
1 Vietnam (M)


Furansu -- French man [sitting]
Furansu fujin -- French woman
Igirisu no shoni [kodomo] -- English children (two)
Igirisu fujin -- English woman
Nankin gekan -- Nankin (Nanking, Nanjing) [southern Chinese] minor official
Igirisu -- English man
Oroshiya -- Russian man on horse
Ezojin -- Ezo man
Oroshiya fujin -- Russian woman
Amerika fujin -- American women
Taishin (taishin) -- Taisei (Ta Ching, Da Qing) [Chinese] man
Taishin no fujin -- Taisei (Ta Ching, Da Qing) [Chinese] woman
Amerika -- American man


Chohikoku [Nagai hiji no kuni] -- Long arms country man
Tenjiiku -- Indian man
Shin Oranda -- Nova Hollandian [Australian] man
Oranda -- Dutch man
Tenjiku fujin -- Indian woman
Fukushima -- Wealth island man
Nyoninkoku -- Land of women woman
Mubukukoku [naibara (i no nai) kuni] -- No stomach country
Tonchinkoku -- Tonkin (Tongking) [(Northern) Vietnamese] man
Isupaniya -- Spainish woman
Senkyokoku -- Pierced chest country men (three)
Oranda no fujin -- Dutch woman
Shojinkoku [Kobito no kuni] -- Small people country man (with telescope on elephant)
Chosen (chosen) -- Korean man
Moko (moko) -- Mongolian man
Ryukyu -- Ryukyuan [Okinawan] man [sitting]
Kyakuchokoku [Ashinagakuni] -- Long legs country man

Ainu and Okinawans

Japan in the 1860s was not a unified state but an instable confederation of regional domains. The collectivity called Japan did not yet include Ezo or Ryukyu, although by then these islands were partly under the suzerainty of nearby Japanese domains. Yoshiiku's "Bankoku" print clearly reflects the view that Ezo and Ryukyu are alien territories.

Standing at the center, by the mounted Russian, is a bearded man from Ezo. Yoshiiku has turned the Ezoite to show his flowing graying hair and resplendent robe. Ezo did not become a Tokugawa colony until 1869, a year after the restoration of Meiji. The colony became Hakodate, Sapporo, and Nemuro prefectures in 1882, and Hokkaido prefecture in 1886. Hokkaido Ainu were nationalized with the creation of family registers in Ezo territory in 1872.

Sitting on a dias in the upper left is what Yoshiiku probably intended to be the King of Ryukyu. Then still an independent country with tributary ties to China, Ryukyu was not annexed by the Meiji government until 1872. The kingdom, and its ties with China, limped on until Japan forced an end to both by making the islands Okinawa prefecture in 1879.

Long legs and arms

Most notable about "Bankoku" for our purposes here, though, are the two men Yoshiiku contrives to hold up the banner. Self-respecting cherubs would consider them alien imposters.

This just in from IAC.

The International Alliance of Cherubs respectfully protests Yoshiiku's use of two non-members to hold his list of nations. These pretenders are usurping our jobs. They have no business bearing that banner, no matter its size or theirs. If two of our strongest can't handle it, we'll assign four, eight, sixteen, a zillion, whatever it takes. No banner is too large for true cherubs. Cherubs of the world unite!

In 1860, a year before he did "Bankoku", Yoshiiku drew a tryptich of very similar design featuring sumo wrestlers, called Dai Nippon oozumo yuriki sekitori kakami [Great Japan sumo powerful wresters mirror]. However, none of the wresters are depicted holding the cartouche listing names of wresters.

Yoshiiku put the popular "foreigner" and "sumo" themes together in a 1861 work called Yokohama sumo no homare [In praise of Yokohama sumo], a single oban print showing a sumo wrester tossing foreign man.

Print information

Size oban triptych
Printed [Seal] Bunkyu 1-4 [May-June 1861]
Drawn by Ikkeisai Yoshiiku [hitsu]
Written by [unsigned]
Carved by Hori Zuku [tentative]
Published by Marutetsu

Cherubs and banners in Christian art

Christian art in Japan

Cherubs are indigenous to European art, where they are commonly associated with Christianity. Christianity, and Christian art, came to Japan during the latter half of the 16th century.

By the early decades of the 17th century, Christianity had established footholds in a number of domains near Nakasaki, through which most Europeans who came to Japan passed on their way to other parts of the country. Japanese and foreign Christians were persecuted, and Christian domains were destroyed, during the 1630s, after which Christians had to deny and hide their faith or face execution.

So by the middle of the 19th century, when Gusokuya brought out the Tokyo nichinichi shinbun nishikie, Christianity had a history of about four centuries in Japan. Yoshiiku, however, would not have seen much if any Christian art, whether of European or Japanese inspiration, for Christianity had been suppressed since the middle of the 17th century, and art with Christian motiffs would not have been accessible to people outside a few hidden Christian communities, mostly in distant provinces around Nagasaki.

A more likely source the cherub-borne banner masthead on the Tonichi nishikie is maps, which were less explicity religious, and deployed cherubs in more secular work (see Cherubs and Banners on Maps below). However, it is worthwhile looking at how cherubs and banner cartouches represented in Christian art related to Japan.


Cartouches enclose or highlight a title or explanation on a drawing or map. They can appear anywhere, can be of any size or shape, and can be very plain or highly elaborate.

If not for Napoleon, a "cartouche" might be called just a "box". The term is French for "gun cartridge", and apparently this is the name Napoleon's soldiers gave to the serekh around hieroglyphic writing, on account of their shape, not knowing they contained the names of pharaohs and others.

In Japanese, cartouches are called "karutoshu" or "komae" -- "koma" meaning a frame or scene, as in "hitokoma manga" (cartoon) and "yonkoma manga" (comic strip), and "e" meaning picture -- though "komae" also refers to a small picture inside a cartouche or in the middle of the text of a story.

Broadly speaking, anything that contains text related to a drawing is a cartouche -- the title, the name of someone or something, a narrative or poem, or an aside. Even the little boxes with the name of the publisher or carver -- sometimes inside, sometimes on the border of a woodblock print -- are "cartouches" in the world of art description.

European engravers turned cartouches into a minor art form. In Japan, cartouches, like borders and other elements, have generally been quieter and more elegant in their simplicity. From the middle of the 19th century, influenced by European designs, some nishikie, especially those with pretensions of being "modern" or "western", featured fancier cartouches and borders, and sometimes even Latin script -- though, on the whole, such embellishments were not few.

Read more about komae on JAANUS.

Nuestra Senora de Antigua, 1587
Copped from Cooper 1971

Nuestra Senora de Antigua

In The Southen Barbarians: The First Europeans in Japan, Cooper et al describe the work shown to the right as follows (Cooper 1971:194, Figure 111).

Virgin and Child. Engraved print on paper; 22 X 14.5 cm.; Oura Cathedral, Nagasaki. This print is based on the famous mural painting Nuestra Senora de Antigua in Seville Cathedral. According to the Latin inscription at the foot of the picture, the print was produced at the Jesuit seminary in Japan in 1597. At that time the school was situated at Arie in Kyushu.

Nagasaki here is the city, not the prefecture. Arie is today a small town in Nagasaki prefecture, which was then Hizen. Kyushu refers literally to the nine provinces of the Saikaido, meaning Chikuzen, Chikugo, Bizen, Bigo, Buzen, Bugo, Hyuga, Osumi, and Satsuma, and the two islands of Iki and Tsushima. The term today refers to the seven prefectures of Fukuoka (Chikuzen, Buzen), Saga (Chikugo), Nagasaki (Hizen), Kumamoto (Higo), Oita (Bungo), Miyazaki (Hyuga), and Kagoshima (Satsuma, Osumi). Kyushu sometimes also includes Okinawa (Ryukyu), which was not then part of Japan.

Shimabara flag, 1637-1638
Copped from Cooper 1971

Shimabara Flag

In The Southen Barbarians: The First Europeans in Japan, Cooper et al describe the work shown to the right as follows (Cooper 1971:161, Figure 78)

The Shimabara Flag. Color on linen; 108.6 X 108.6 cm.; Okuyama Binshi Collection. This flag was used by Christians in the Shimabara Rebellion, 1637-38; the Portuguese inscriptions reads "Praised by the Blessed Sacrament."

Shimabara was the site of a peasant rebellion in 1638-1639. Usually taken to be a "Christian" uprising, it is far from clear that Christianity had much to do with the rebellion. As in many other conflicts and wars that are called "religious", the Shimabara rebellion also turns out to be more "political" in that it was fundamentally a clash between powerholders, and between the powerful and the powerless.

Whatever its causes, the Shimabara rebellion ended in defeat for the rebels, many of whom lost their heads to executioners. Existing bans on Christianity were more harshly enforced, and apparently a number of surviving rebels became Christians and joined the ranks of those who had already gone underground.

Another consequence of the rebellion was the expulsion and exclusion of Portuguese traders by the Tokugawa shogunate, which suspected that Portuguese and other Catholics were behind the rebellion. The fact that some Dutch helped the shogunate suppress the rebellion, and that Protestant Holland was favored as the only European country allowed to trade with Japan, suggests the complexity of the conditions under which Shimabara peasants became disgruntled over heavy taxation.

Chronicas de la Apostolica Provincia, 1744
Copped from Cooper 1971

Chronicas de la Apostolica Provincia

In The Southen Barbarians: The First Europeans in Japan, Cooper et al describe the work shown to the right as follows (Cooper 1971:Page 71, Figure 33)

An eighteenth-century representation of the 1597 martyrdoms at Nagasaki. Joao Rodrigues is shown as one of the two European priests standing in the center of the picture, while Bishop Pedro Martins can be seen in the lower right-hand corner, viewing the scene from his house. From Fray Juan Francisco de San Antonio, Chronicas de la Apostolica Provincia de San Gregorio, vol. III, Manila, 1744.

There are 26 martyrs in this picture, including the 23 shown already crucified in the Japanese style, and the two priests in the center and the Bishop in the lower right corner. They were executed on a hill near Nagasaki in 1597, beatified in 1627, and canonized in 1862.

The "Nagasaki Martyrs" consisted of Franciscan and Jesuit missionaries, and Japanese converts, were refused to recant their faith after they were arrested in 1596, when Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598), fearing the political consequences of a spread of Christianity, banned Christianity and ordered the arrest of those who refused to become apostates. Apparently they were tortured, humiliated in public, and otherwise intimidated but refused to renounce their beliefs for their freedom.

After Hideyoshi's death, the persecution of Christians was later somewhat relaxed. In 1614, however, Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616, shogun 1603 to 1605) again banned Christianity, and the next year he destroyed Osaka Castle, a stronghold of the Toyotomi family, which continued to pose a threat to the new Tokugawa shogunate. The castle fell, and in it to the end, Toyotomi Hideyori (1593-1615), Hideyoshi's son and successor, committed suicide, as did his mother, Yodogimi, Hideyoshi's principal wife.

The second shogun, Tokugawa Hidetada (1579-1632, shogun from 1605 to 1623), Ieyasu's third son, rebuilt an even larger castle on the site of Hideyoshi's castle in 1620. Hidetada was instrumental in reinstating bans on Christianity and restricting trade. He ordered all people in Tokugawa controlled domains to renounce Christianity in 1612, in 1622 many missionaries and converts were executed under his orders. He restricted foreign trade to Nagasaki and Hirado island.

The third shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu (1604-1651, shogun from 1623-1649), arguably the most important of the early shogun, finished the job started by his predecessors, under the direction of his father, who acted as regent until his death in 1632. The Spanish were expelled in 1624. More Christians were executed in 1629. An edict prohibiting Japanese from leaving Japan or returning was issued in 1636. Portuguese were limited to Dejima near Nagasaki in 1635 and expelled after the Shimabara rebellion in 1638. Iemitsu all but closed off Japan with edicts issued in 1639.

Cherubs and banners on maps

Cherubs as messengers

Angels bearing messages are fairly common in early Christian art. Some hover in the air above a scene, others stand on terra firma. The angels evolved into cherubs, and cherubs who couldn't find work in the religious world migrated to the secular world, where many lost their religiosity.

Cherubs, among other creatures, came to flank or support all manner of objects in art and architecture. But cherubs are best known as bearers of heavenly tidings, and are most often shown unrolling a scroll or unfurling a banner with a message.

Today, cherubs are most likely seen bearing glad tidings in people's homes. A knickknack shop, almost anywhere in the world, is not complete without molded plaster-of-paris cherubs holding a banner inscribed with words intended to inspire the owner while dusting them off.

European maps commonly feature cherubs other creatures holding cartouches, including unfurled banners, showing titles, scales, and legends. And regional and world maps, more than Christian art, would have been in much greater demand in Japan. Despite bans on leaving the country, or returning, again on penalty of death, maps would have been less risky and therefore more readily available, especially after one enters the 19th century, when there is a marked increase in contact with Europeans from all quarters, and a greater need for strategic information about the lay of the world.

By the 1860s, certainly, regional and world maps and globes, particular of European design, would have been high on ever leader's, scholar's, and traveler's list of must possessions. Presumably they would also have been coveted and collected by publishers and drawers who designed and printed maps as well as woodcuts and woodblock prints.

1685 map of Japanese Isles designed by Mallet
Copped and cropped from Robert Frew

Isle du Iapon

This map of Japan is just shy of 10 by 14 centimeters. It was designed by Allain Manesson Mallet (1603-1706), an engineer who worked for Louis XIV after serving with the Portuguese Army. Apparently it was printed in Frankfurt in 1685, probably from engraved copper plates. The unfurled drape showing the title is held by two cherubs trumpeting their tidings from rocks jutting out from the sea.

Mallet designed a number miniature maps of similiar design, including aerial maps and bird's-eye views of several Japanese cities, and of other countries and cities around the world.

1683 map of Italy designed by Mallet
Copped and cropped from Antique Atlas


This uncolored map of Italy includes Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica, but shows only regional names. It is about 11 by 15 centimeters and appears to have been published in Paris in 1683.

The unfurled drape displaying the title is held aloft by two cherubs. The cherub on the right is looking toward the cherub on the left, while the cherub on the left is looking more toward us and a bit down -- very reminiscent of the cherubs on Yoshiiku's Tokyo nichinichi shinbun nishikie.

1651 world map designed by Husum
Copped and cropped from Robert Putman

Den Cirulen der Planeten

This circular map of the planet, drawn by J.M. Husum, is about 57 by 47 centimeters. It appears to have been published in Germany in about 1651.

The map is actually a cellestial chart. It shows the course of the panets according to Tycho Brahe (1546-1601), the Danish observers of stars and planets, and teacher of Johannes Kepler, who put astrology on a scientific map called astronomy.

The map is heavily decorated, with two portraits in the lower corners, one (lower left) of Tycho; two title cartouches in the upper corners, each overseen by a cherub; and two informational banners, unfurled vertically on either side, each held by a pair of cherubs.

1720 map of the world by Homann
Copped and cropped from Rare Maps

Planiglobii Terrestris

The full title of this hand-colored copperplate engraved map of the world is Planiglobii Terrestris cum utroq Hemisphario Calesti Generalis Exhibition or "A general exhibition of the planar globes of the earth with both celestial hemispheres" (just a wild guess).

It was designed by the German cartography Johann Baptiste Homann (1663-1724) and seems to have been published in Nuremberg around 1720. At roughly 48 by 56 centimeters, it is larger than many maps of its day, but is fairly small by today's standards for a map of such ambitious design.

California is a long semi-island attached to the mainland about where Vancouver would be today. It's coastline is practically due west of Japan. This depiction of Japan opposite the westcoast of north America is rather unusual for the time.

Numerous disembodied windheads are keeping things afloat.

The cherubs holding the title banner -- though not to the degree of the their cousins in Mallet's Italie (above) -- are also poised like Yoshiiku's cherubs, in that the one on the right is looking at or across the banner, while the one on the left is looking more at the world.

Mt. Etna is erupting lower left. A rainbow is arching lower right. The very elaborate artwork represents a blend of science, fantasy, and allegory typical of the Baroque style of the period. Many maps were even more ornate.

1667, frontispiece, Le Blaeu's Geographia Blaviana
Copped and cropped from World Globes

Le Grand Atlas -- Geographia Blaviana

Geographia Blaviana, compiled and printed by the Dutch map maker and publisher Joan Blaeu (c1599-1673), is said to be one of the largest and most elaborate atlases ever produced. The image to the right is of the frontispiece, about 30 by 43 centimters, of Volume 1 of the 12-volume French edition, known as Le Grand Atlas, published in Amsterdam between 1663 and 1667 -- shortly before 1672, when Blaeu's printshop and warehouse went up in flames. It is abou

The atlas reportedly contains some six-hundred "engraved and colored maps, plans, and drawings of all parts of the known world. The allegorical scene, showing the figure of Geography in a chariot drawn by two lions, is based on a painting by Peter Paul Rubens. The personification of the four continents is displayed by female gures associated with appropriate animals." (From "World Atlas History" on World Globes website).

Here we see multiple cherubs holding up the title banner, which is literally radiating its glory on Europa, seated in a chariot pulled by two lions driven by two very Rubenesque children.

1680, title page, Pitt's The English Atlas
Copped and cropped from Old World

The English Atlas

Moses Pitt (1680-1683) is thought to have been born in Germany and later settled in London. Apparently he was neither a cartographer nor a scholar, but that didn't stop him from trying to put out, in collaboration with Dutch publishers, an Anglicized version of Blaeu's Grand Atlas. He planned eleven volumes but had brought out only four when the project went bust.

The atlas, published in Amsterdam around 1680, was about 29 by 46 centimeters, which takes a pretty big pocket. The image to the right is of the title page.

Two cherubs are holding the title banner while another looks on. Atlas holds the celestial globe in the background. Europa, a lion at her feet and calipers in hand, and Neptune, are at the globe in the foreground, while a cartographer, perhaps, draws a map.