YEAR JAPAN - THE NETHERLANDS
Arrival of the
Dutch - Deshima - Nagasaki
School paintings -
- Von Siebold - Flora
The history of exchange between Japan and the Netherlands
started when the Rotterdam ship "de Liefde" drifted ashore in Japan
in 1600. From the end of the 16th to the beginning of the 17th
century, during the warring states period, Japanese culture was
strongly influenced by Portugal and Spain.
The Year 2009 marks the 400th Anniversary of Trade Relations between
Japan and the Netherlands and commemorates the long-standing friendship between the two countries. The beginning of
these commercial relations dates back to 1609, when Tokugawa Ieyasu issued an official trade permit to the Netherlands.
From the onset trade between the Netherlands and Japan did not have an economic impact alone. The impact was also
felt in many creative fields from architecture as reflected in the Dutch-style houses on Dejima Island, to art, as in
Van Gogh's Japanese-inspired paintings and even in the language.
In 1639, the
Tokugawa Shogunate prohibited the Portuguese from visiting Japan
and decided to continue official trade only with the Netherlands.
In 1641, the Dutch Factory of the VOC was relocated from Hirado to
Deshina in Nagasaki and trade between Japan and the Netherlands
entered a new stage. At this time, the Netherlands was the only
country that provided Japan with western culture. During the Edo
period western culture into Japan was almost exclusively imported
through the Dutch Factory of the VOC in Nagasaki.
The celebration of the 400 year cultural and economical exchange
between Japan and the Netherlands has induced us to compose some
web pages and offerings of a number of beautiful, rare and
important items with an accent on this unique relationship between
We have made informative articles regarding the following
From the 17th century, Japanese noble scholars adopted western
knowledge of cannons, medical science and natural science,
especially natural history.
In 1720 Tokugawa Yoshimune eased restrictions on imports of
western books except those related to Christianity. This easing of
restrictions greatly assisted studies prevailing in Japan of
medical science, astronomy and the solar calendar. With the
increased import of many different books, prints, paintings of
lower quality and glass pictures, some painters and members of
wealthy class in Japan came to accept the western artistic
rationale with regard to composition and expression which stressed
texture and three-dimensional effect.
Japanese artists learned western techniques on their own mainly
from illustrations or prints in Dutch books. Shiba Kokan
(1747-1818), a western-style painter representing the Edo period
created the first Japanese etchings based on illustrations in a
Dutch everyday encyclopedia, the Dictiotiare Oncyclopedia edited by
Noel Chomel (1633-1712). Kokan obtained from the Amsterdam copper
printer Jan Luiken prints from his populair work "Spiegel van Het
Menselyk Bedryf" and he produced the first real oil paintings in
Japan based on this work. He named these oil paintings "Ranga"
The optical mirror or
Zograscope and the optical prints
imported from the Netherlands stimulated Japanese painters who
applied Western vision to the expression of landscapes. This
Western vision also provided inspiration for the woodblock prints
of landscapes by Hokusai and Hiroshige.
Dutch art played a very important role in cultivating an
understanding Western rationale, while Dutch maps gave the Japanese
a new recognition of the world at the end of 19th century, when
modern civilization began to be absorbed in earnest.
ARRIVAL OF THE DUTCH
The first Dutch approach to Japan
was an ambitious expedition of five ships under the command of
Jacques Mahu. They left Rotterdam in June, 1598, and after crossing
the Atlantic, coasting Brazil and Argentina, entered the Straits of
Magellan on April 6, 1599. Because of vicious winter storms, it
took nearly five months to reach the pacific side. Finally in April
of 1600, a single remaining ship, 'de Liefde', commanded by Captain
Jacob Jansz van Quaeckernack and piloted by the Englishman, Will
Adams, made landfall near Usuki in the province of Bungo on the
Island of Kyushu. Not surprisingly, these new visitors were not
welcomed by the entrenched Portuguese who made every effort to turn
the Japanese authorities against the Protestant interlopers.
Despite these efforts, Adams eventually became a well accepted
advisor to Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, while some five years later van
Quaeckemack was allowed to leave Japan for Southeast Asia with the
Shogun's full blessing, and carrying an offer of trading privileges
for the Dutch.
In 1609 the Dutch
East India Company arrived this time with two ships, commanded by
Nicholas Puyck, which had been detached from a 13 ships fleet which
had left Amsterdam in December, 1607. Puyck's ships, 'Roode Leeuw
met Pijlen' and 'Griffioen', carrying a modest cargo of silk,
pepper and lead. They were led directly to Hirado by two Japanese
pilots, There, they received official trading privileges and
encouragement to set up a factory.
In 1634 the shogun
commanded the construction of an island in the Bay of Nagasaki on
which all the Portuguese traders could be assembled together in one
place. Legend has it that when asked what shape the island was to
take, the shogun spread out his fan in reply. The island was called
Deshima, which literally means 'projecting island'. The Portuguese
were settled as soon as the work was completed in 1636. Their
residence was, however, of short duration, as in 1639 they, along
with all other Westerners with the exception of the Dutch, were
banned from Japan for good. In 1641 the Dutch were in their turn
forced to move to Deshima, and remained there together with the
Chinese until Japan was opened up in 1853. According to the
measurements taken by Engelbert Kaempfer, who arrived on Deshima in
1690, the maximum length amounted to 263 and the width to 82 paces,
resulting in an area of 14,876 m², comparable to that of the Dam in
Amsterdam. The island was connected to the mainland by a wooden
drawbridge (Ichi-no-Mon). By this bridge was built a strong
guardhouse, which served as the entrance to the island. The second
entrance to the island was the Watergate (Ni-no-Mon), which was
built at one of the short sides of the fanshape. A fence of wooden
planks, covered over and topped with a double row of sharp stakes
completely enclosed the island.
In the initial stage life of the Dutch on Deshima was far from
pleasant. They were under constant supervision of Japanese district
wardens and official spies. During the day there were gate-keepers,
at night their duty was taken over by 'mawariban'. Particularly
welcome of course was the arrival of Dutch ships. During the hustle
of unloading and loading the ships the inhabitants of Deshima could
forget their boredom, while moreover they learnt the latest news
from their native country and the colonies.
Despite the enormous
costs involved in maintaining a foothold in Japan, the first
hundred years were quite profitable to the V.O.C. By the beginning of the eighteenth century
profits were steadily decreasing and the number of ships visiting
Nagasaki did not exceed one or two a year. Before the turn of the
century the Netherlands were occupied by the French, and the
English had taken advantage of the situation by taking over the
administration of the Dutch East Indies in 1811. Thus, during the
first twenty years of the nineteenth century there had been a
steady decline in trade contacts, which then came to a complete
stand. The 'Nederlandse Handel Maatschappij' (Netherlands Trading
Company) which had taken over all the V.O.C's interests after the
Napoleontic period, was not interested in Deshima. Therefore, the
Dutch trading post in Japan was kept on for mainly political
Soon after the opening of Japan's doors in 1859, the western
bank of the island was extended for a new landing gate, and in 1867
the outer wall was extended by about seven meters to provide for a
promenade from Deshima to the Kosuge Ship Repair Dock. After 1900
Deshima was swallowed up in the expansion of Nagasaki. The Landgate
and the Watergate gave way to a wide thoroughfare. The channel
between the mainland and the island was widened to enable the
Nakashima River to flow through it.
The island of Deshima is no longer recognizable as such. To-day,
plates show the boundary of the island after these extensions. In
the same spot where once a Dutch warehouse was situated there is
now a wooden building in the same style. Behind this building there
is a walled garden with Deshima modeled in miniature.
NAGASAKI SCHOOL PAINTINGS
Nagasaki, situated in the province of Hizen on the island of
Kyushu, and surrounded by hills and mountains on three sides, was
one of Japan's major harbor cities during the Edo-period. Nagasaki
housed a number of various schools of painting. The term 'Nagasaki
school' is therefore rather a geographically defined one,
applicable to almost any painter active in this area.
Whatever the often slight differences between the various
traditions based in Nagasaki, all schools of painting seem to have
shared a large degree of realism as a common element.
Nagasaki prints and paintings depict subjects connected with the
port and harbor of Nagasaki and deal chiefly with Dutch and Chinese
shipping and with the interesting visitors to be seen at the Dutch
and Chinese factories. They also portray birds, camels, elephants
and other fauna imported into Nagasaki by the Dutch and the
By its special position as the exclusive base for import and
export trade, its artists in the area could hardly avoid being
influenced by the Chinese and the Dutch. The Nagasaki school shows
indeed a good deal of foreign influence, some of the subjects
treated evidently being taken from Dutch copperplate engravings,
while others, such as the Shoho World Map, were probably copied
from the Chinese originals of the last decade of the Ming
Beside on paper and silk many of the Nagasaki artists painted in
oils on glass, after the Chinese manner, and they also introduced
Doro-e, or mud pictures, so called because they were done with
muddy water-colour pigments mixed with chalk.
The Dutch commissioned work to Nagasaki painters, wanting them
to paint as much as possible in the style to which they were
accustomed, i. e. using Western methods of perspective, the
applying of shadows and working with opaque colours. The most
important painter was Kawahara Keiga, in fact the first Japanese
painter to remain in the service of the Dutch on Deshima for a
A quite special
category within the Japanese prints is formed by Nagasaki woodblock
prints. Compared with the prints from Edo they are rather of
primitive design and applied techniques. These prints were already
made in the 17th century; in most cases town plans were printed.
Not earlier than in the mid-18th century the publishing firm Hiriya
publishes the first print on which a Dutchman is depicted.
Except in the case of a few prints depicting Maruyama beauties
and their Dutch and Chinese patrons, no Japanese subjects were
treated. In general Nagasaki prints do not bear the artist's
signature, though a few late prints are signed by Tani Ho,
Kogetsukwan, Isono Bunsai and his wife Seko.
Nagasaki prints were eagerly sought by visiting businessmen,
tourists and local residents for use as souvenirs. They sold
cheaply at the time with the result that not many were preserved
and very few copies exist to-day. It is estimated that there may be
no more than four- or five thousand copies of some three
hundred-odd designs currently remaining in the world.
After 1854, when foreigners also appear in other parts of the
country, the Nagasaki prints loose their importance. Their function
is temporarily performed by Yokohama woodcuts which, apart from
depicting various foreigners, also choose all kinds of new
technical inventions as their subject.
The oldest of the Nagasaki maps (Nagasaki-zu) were two panoramic
prints by the artist Chikujuken that served as guides to the city
of Nagasaki for visitors, who took them home as stylish souvenirs.
They were such a useful guide for finding the foreign trading
stations and the anchorage's of Dutch and Chinese vessels that they
were continued to be published for many years. The influence of
this type of panorama print can be seen in the 'Yokohama pictures'
of the mid-19th century and in the bird's-eye perspectives of such
pictures as 'A Comprehensive View of Yokosuka' that were still
being published after the Meyi Restoration of 1868.
PHILIPP FRANZ BALTHASAR VON SIEBOLD
Von Siebold was born on 17th February 1796 in Würzburg, in
Germany, and worked for the Netherlands government as a doctor in
Java. In 1823 Siebold arrived in Japan with a special assignment.
Apart from his appointment as the station doctor, he was to gather
information on the trade with Japan, the country itself, its
constitution, its political system and its products. His reputation
allowed him to go beyond Deshima and to buy a house outside
An opportunity to travel in Japan arose in 1826, when he
accompanied a Dutch mission to the Imperial Court at Yedo (Tokyo),
typically and illegally taking surveys on the way. Siebold became
fluent in Japanese and was permitted to travel and to observe the
country, its manners and customs, the results of these travels and
extensive researches being embodied in his magnificent work
'Nippon, Archiv zur Beschreibung von Japan und dessen Neben-und
It was to consist of nine volumes, of which eventually only
seven appeared, but even these were not complete. It is clear that
Siebold tried to deal with all aspects of Japan's nature and
culture. An essential part of 'Nippon' was formed by the
illustrations, which in great part were taken from objects in his
We offer for sale several original prints from 'Nippon,
Archiv zur Beschreibing" or "Flora Japonica" by Von
Click here for a
In 1835 the first installments of his 'Flora Japonica ' were
finished. The 'Flora Japonica' was written in collaboration with
Joseph Gerhard Zuccarini and issued in 30 pails. Only the first
volume could be completed in 1841, and during Von Siebold's
lifetime until 1844, only five installments of the second volume
appeared. After Zuccarini's death in 1848, work on the Flora was
virtually stopped, though on the basis of Zuccarini's and Siebold's
manuscripts another five installments were edited by F.A. W. Miquel
for publications in 1870.
The Paulus Swaen company is for a long time specialized in the
Japanese / Netherlands relationship in the 17th and 18th century,
The year 2009 marked its 400th anniversary of a Trade relations, with cultural and economical exchange
between Japan and the Netherlands and has induced us to compose some
web pages and a Sale catalogue offering a number of beautiful, rare
and important items with an accent on this unique relationship
between both countries.
Please click to view the following subjects: Sale catalogue index - japan maps - japan town views -
We have made informative articles regarding the following