Information from the Rijksmuseum, 21 July 2015
With 170 objects from China, Japan, India and Batavia, the Rijksmuseum is organising an exhibition starting on 17 October to tell the story of the excitement created by the Asian treasures that were shipped to Holland in the Golden Age. Lacquer work, ivory, silver, silk, ebony, jewellery and enormous quantities of porcelain poured into Amsterdam, the then bustling ‘capital of the world’, to enrich the interiors of the increasingly prosperous Dutch bourgeoisie.
Not only diamonds, gems, filigree, mother of pearl, silver, silk, chintz and fans, but also pepper, tea and exotic animals such as parrots and monkeys were all shipped to Amsterdam. Naturally, Dutch citizens wanted to immortalise themselves among all that luxury. From the beginning of the 17th century, Dutch artists therefore started to incorporate these objects into their paintings. Clara Peeters, Floris van Dyck, Pieter Claesz, Willem Claesz. Heda and Willem Kalf were masters at depicting the texture of shiny porcelain. Men who wanted to be truly fashionable had their portraits done wearing a silk ‘Japanese skirt’, which was a long loose-fitting silk coat, such as the one worn by Amsterdam pharmacist Johannes Hudde in the portrait of him by Michiel van Musscher in 1686. Those who were also wealthy enough to serve Chinese tea from a Chinese teapot into Chinese cups, all on a Japanese lacquered table, had truly brought Asia to Amsterdam.