East Meets West

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is home to over a million art objects. Their website features high resolution images of many of the artworks from the collection. But unlike most institutions they do not charge for this access, and they even promote public use of these images toward design or commercial applications. A major art institution that encourages artistic engagement with its collection outside of its own walls is truly groundbreaking.

The museum has an interesting collection of Japanese art, which includes sculpture, kimonos, and prints. There are numerous prints of Japanese erotica (Shunga), which are shockingly vivid. They also have a print of Under the Wave off Kanagawa, which is the most recognizable Japanese artwork in the world, and it is free to download. If Uniqlo can stamp it on a t-shirt so can you!

While browsing through the vast collection we came across a number of images of Europeans (and their non-European servants) in 18th-19th century Japan as depicted by Japanese artists. We think it’s not only fascinating to see Europeans depicted in a completely different manner than European art of the time, but it’s also interesting to witness a glimpse into a world of wooden ships, top hats and international trade.

Five Dutch at a Meal (Rin Shihei, 1790-1810)
Javanese servants pour sake and bring boiled eggs for Dutch men at Dejima in Nagasaki Japan.
Dutchman Admiring Peonies as Representation of His Wife (Utagawa Sadahide, 1861)
The Land of Little People (Utagawa Yoshitora, 1863)

Camel and Dromedary (anonymous, 1821)
A Dutchman and two servants with a camel and a dromedary; According to the text, the animals were presented to the shogun in Edo in 1821 on the occasion of the court trip. The text also provides some information about the animals and how they were imported to Japan.
The Kitchen in a Foreigner’s House (Utagawa Yoshikazu,1860)
Dutch Couple with Telescope and Pipe (anonymous, 1740-1864)
Five Nationalities at a Banquet (Utagawa Yoshikazu, 1861)
A dining room with 18 people around an elaborate table. On the far left is a French couple with a child, next to them are two Chinese servants. At the table from left to right an English couple, two Dutch men, a German couple and Americans on the far right. Through the open window a view of a ship (Yokohama-e).
Hollanders (Utagawa Yoshitora, 1861)
Dutchman with Indian servant (Utagawa Kunihisa, 1861)
Dutch People in Yohohama (Utagawa Sadahide, 1861)
This remastered image is available background-free on TofuJoe

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