Soprintendenza Speciale per il Patrimonio Storico, Artistico ed Etnoantropologico e per il Polo Museale della città di Firenze

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Japan. Land of enchantments - Of Line and of Colour

Japan, its arts and the encounter with the West

04-03-2012 | 07-01-2012

This year Florence celebrates Japanese art and culture in the Pitti Palace, the Florentine palace that, as far back as 1585, welcomed the first Japanese ambassadors to reach Italy.
The sumptuous rooms and the most prestigious premises of the Palace, now divided into three museums, are involved in this magnificent event devoted to the arts and the culture of the archipelago of the Far East, suggestively entitled Japan. Land of enchantments.
In the Pitti Palace the Sala Bianca, in the Palatine Gallery on the first floor of the palace, hosts the exhibition The elegance of memory. The decorative arts in modern Japan; running at the Gallery of Modern Art is the exhibition Japonism. Evocations of the Far East from the Macchiaioli to the Thirties.

On the ground floor of the Pitti Palace, the former summer quarters of the Grand Dukes, now the Museo degli Argenti, hosts the exhibition Of Line and of Colour. Japan, its arts and the encounter with the West.

This show, devoted to Japanese art from the 14th to the 19th century, brings together an extraordinary number of masterpieces and works of outstanding quality originating from leading museums all over the world, allowing us to relive the atmosphere of a highly sophisticated culture.
The Japan of those times was the land of the shoguns and the samurai. Despite their mastery in the use of lethal weapons, the Japanese soldiers had a highly developed artistic sensitivity and on the battlefield they flaunted armour of the most exquisite elegance. Their edged weapons were works in which efficacy and beauty merged, as illustrated by the two splendid and precious “National Treasures” sent to us from Japan for the exhibition: a sword (katana) and a dagger (tantō).
However, the Japanese at the time loved to surround themselves with the most elegant works of art in all the different circumstances of their lives. Their homes and the Buddhist and Shinto temples were adorned with paintings by artists of exceptional talent, executed on gilded screens or on scrolls, the horizontal ones designed to be hung on the walls, and the vertical to be admired, bit by bit, laid out upon a table, almost like a comic. This pictorial art was promoted by the shoguns; it is also they who have the merit for the development of the tea ceremony, with its works of disarming simplicity, as well as highly sophisticated forms of theatre in which the actors wore masks, some of them disquieting, and magnificent silk costumes. The ladies dressed in extremely elegant kimonos of extraordinary colours, and devoted themselves to the most fashionable pastimes such as the incense game or chamber music.
During the peaceful Edo period (1615-1868) in the large cities of Japan (Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto) another culture developed simultaneously – it too extremely sophisticated: this was the Ukiyo, the “Floating World”, and it was connected with the mercantile classes. There is a section of the exhibition devoted to the artistic forms favoured by this category of citizens. Assiduous habitués of the Pleasure Districts, they too loved beauty and elegance above all else; this was the ambience in which artists such as the great Hokusai rose to popularity. He is represented in the exhibition by an extraordinary masterpiece, a vertical scroll portraying five ladies conserved in the Hosomi Museum of Kyoto.

The last section of this exhibition addresses the encounter between Japanese and European culture, and that of Italy in particular, which predates the beginning of the Modern Age. The display of Japanese artefacts of the Nanban type (literally ‘southern barbarians’, which was how the Japanese defined the Europeans between the 16th and the 17th centuries) brings back to life a period of fertile relations between the Japanese archipelago and Europe.


Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali
Direzione Regionale per i Beni Culturali e Paesaggistici della Toscana
Soprintendenza Speciale per il Patrimonio Storico, Artistico ed Etnoantropologico e per il Polo Museale della città di Firenze
Palazzo Pitti:
Museo degli Argenti, Galleria Palatina, Galleria d’arte moderna
Firenze Musei

Museo Federigo Stibbert

Gabinetto Vieusseux

Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze

Agency for Cultural Affairs, Tokyo
The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
Hosomi Museum, Kyoto
The Yomiuri Shimbun


Maria Sframeli

Curated by

Francesco Morena

Exhibition Management

Maria Sframeli



Press office

Opera Laboratori Fiorentini – Civita Group
Tel. 055. 290383 e-mail:

Ticket prices

Full Price: € 10,00
Reduced: € 5,00

Combined ticket for the entire museum complex of the Pitti Palace and all sections of the exhibition up to 1 July 2012:
€ 18.00 (full price - valid 3 days)
€ 9.00 (reduced price - valid 3 days)


8.15 – 18.30 (April, May)
8.15 – 18.50 (June, July)

Closed on the 1st and the last Monday of each month


Italy-Japan coordination
Annalaura Valitutti

Scientific Committee
Cristina Acidini, Cristina Aschengreen Piacenti, Paolo Calvetti, Francesco Civita, Simonella Condemi, Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere, Vincenzo Farinella, Annamaria Giusti, Anna Jackson, Christiaan J.A. Jörg, Karasawa Masahiro, Aoyagi Masanori, Moroyama Masanori, Giuliano Matteucci, Francesco Morena, Kamogawa Sachio, Daniela Sadun, Kondō Seiichi, Maria Sframeli, Saitō Takamasa