Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Nau(s) Negra(s) in the Namban screens (2)

By the time the namban screens were made the Dutch shipbuilders had already surpassed the Portuguese and the Spanish and set trends that would be copied and developed by others. In meanwhile the big ships had lost that protruding forecastle we see in the naos of the beginning of the previous century. It became a castle of modest dimensions, extending up from the prow. That is what we see on the first and last pictures of the previous post, reproduced in astonishing detail, while the one in the middle looks as if it came out of the imagination of someone who never saw the ship in question.

While we may think that the namban screens were merely decorative, it is possible they were in fact an intelligence job, a film of the events that should include the maximum possible information. It includes attitudes, wardrobe, weaponry and technical details, using caricature as a means of conveying a more subtle type of information, what responses to expect from the foreigners, their weak points. But let's suppose the client wants to see something even more exquisite, something that doesn't exist anymore, a Black Ship like the first one that touched Japanese shores. And there goes the poor team of artists, digging information, comparing what they know, jumping of joy in the presence of a salvaged item (because there are accurate details in this picture) and finally producing this monster of the seas. If my supposition is correct it means that the black ships of the middle of the sixteenth century and perhaps later were the old style of nao.

What interests me most, on the other two drawings, is how the stern is represented, on the first one a quite common transom stern, in use for ages, on the third a fashionable tall and elegant aft superstructure, showing that the shipyards of Goa were making an effort modernizing their designs.

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