Portuguese man and griffin


Japanese, Portuguese man and griffin
Photo Credit: 

Laura Shea

On View
Place made: 
Asia; Japan
Portuguese man and griffin, 18th or 19th century
Ivory; carved with pigment
Overall: 2 7/16 in x 7/8 in x 7/16 in; 6.2 cm x 2.2 cm x 1.1 cm
William Richter Collection, Gift of Margaret Ruth Richter (Class of 1939)
MH 1986.30.62

This rare rendition of the first Portuguese sailor to reach Japan displays his native costume and curly hair, along with an equally exotic creature: a griffin. Pinto was supposedly shipwrecked off the south coast of Kyushu, on a small island known as Tanega. The back of the figure bears an inscription that translates as: “I came to Japan in Tenbun eighth year (1539), seventh day of the eighth month,” although the more widely accepted date of his arrival is 1543.