Photo/IllutrationLeft: Coloring specifications for a warrior written on one of the painted screens depicting the winter campaign of the Siege of Osaka in 1614. Right: The drawing of the warrior is digitally painted with colors specified after removing the texts and remaining pigments. (Provided by Toppan Printing Co.)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Historians and printing experts are to collaborate to digitally restore in full color rare and faded illustrations of the Siege of Osaka during the winter military campaign of 1614 that helped change the course of Japanese history.

The project, announced July 3 by Toppan Printing Co., will be undertaken in collaboration with historians from the Tokugawa Art Museum in Nagoya, Tokyo University of the Arts and Yoshihiro Senda, a professor of archaeology at Nara University.

The artwork concerns a pair of folding screens in the collection of the Tokyo National Museum in the capital's Ueno district. They depict the first of two military campaigns that ended in 1615, where forces led by Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616) wiped out the Toyotomi clan after it attempted to subvert the Tokugawa Shogunate that unified Japan in 1603.

The illustrations are thought to be copies produced later during the Edo Period (1603-1817) based on an original painting from an earlier period.

They are the only known illustrations of the winter campaign that provide a historical reference on the battle formations and what Osaka Castle looked like before the outer moats were filled with debris after the siege.

Many depictions of the summer campaign survived, but the original screens of the winter campaign are presumed lost.

Toppan Printing said it hoped that having a restored reproduction would prove useful to scholars and historians.

Although the screens have lost some pigments, the team will be able to restore the images based on directions left in the illustrations on colors used for the figures and background scenes.

The team will digitally remove the original colors and color notes to leave clean line drawings so that the specified colors can be added.

The finished work will be printed on an industrial printer and then touched up manually with the application of gold leaf.

The project is scheduled to finish by the end of March 2019.