Exhibition on the Dutch in Japan and Dutchmen netsuke in SieboldHuis until 2 June 2013
From roughly early 17th century to circa mid-19th century Holland was the only western nation that was permitted trade with Japan and the Dutch resided on a small fan-shaped island named Deshima, in the bay of Nagasaki, in the very south of Japan. There they waited on ships to come from Batavia (present-day Jakarta) with new merchandise for the Japanese and at the same time they exported goods from Japan to Europe. Every year (and once every four years after 1790), the Dutch were obliged to visit the Shogun in Edo (present-day Tokyo), which required them to travel the long distance from Nagasaki to Edo over land and over sea.
The Coen Hille collection of Dutchmen netsuke forms the core of this exhibition and the collection is the result of Hille’s long-held interest in the VOC and Dutch-Japanese trading relations.
These paintings of Deshima are a true pleasure to look at, as they offer a wealth of details, enabling the viewer to look into the houses of the Dutch. In a long horizontal painting near the rear wall of the exhibition space (probably a fragment of a longer hand scroll painting), the small island looks almost like a zoo. The painter has depicted a great number and variety of animals throughout the work, dogs, chicken, exotic birds and more. Two Javanese servants are shown playing a kind of battledore and shuttlecock.
The exhibition is accompanied by a nicely produced 96-page-catalogue, written by Chris Uhlenbeck and Taetske Kramer. This catalogue is solely dedicated to the Coen Hille collection of netsuke. This means that some of the interesting prints and paintings in the exhibition are not included. The publication includes an introduction on netsuke, their use, materials and subject matter and in particular the subject of the Dutch and foreigners in netsuke. The catalogue section has short descriptions of each netsuke. In total 52 netsuke are listed with full color photos of their front and back and where applicable its signature. The catalogue is attractively priced at 14,95 euro.
The exhibition is on view until 2 June 2013. For more information check out the website of the SieboldHuis.
Chris Uhlenbeck & Teatske Kramer, Netsuke. Dutchmen in miniature, Leiden: Japan Museum SieboldHuis, 2013. 96 pages. ISBN 9789081287463.