Deshima Experience

New @ Dutch Museum Gift Shop: the Deshima folding screen

If you have followed the recent news in the Dutch cultural sector, you might already know about the new Japanese folding screen that can now be admired at Museum Volkenkunde. But did you know you can even invite it into your own home?

In 2018, Museum Volkenkunde acquired a unique painted folding screen for their Japanese collection. The work was made by Kawahara Keiga (1768 – ca. 1860), an artist of the Edo period who features heavily in the museum’s collection. The screen depicts the bay of Nagasaki with the Dutch trading post of Deshima at its centre. After three years of intensive restoration, it can now be admired in the museum’s Japan gallery.

The Edo period was characterized by an isolationist policy from the Japanese government. Foreigners were only admitted to Japan sparsely and trade relations with the rest of the world were strictly regulated. In line with this, the activities at trading posts and foreign factories were tightly separated from daily Japanese life. However, when artist Kawahara Keiga was invited to Deshima by Dutch traders, he was able to show a unique look into this secluded world through his paintings. In order to do so, he even had to acquire special permission from the Japanese government! After acquiring this permission, he was allowed to enter and exit Deshima freely.

During a period of over thirty years, Kawahara documented many aspects of life at Deshima in his work, masterfully blending traditional Japanese painting with Western techniques that he learned at the factory. Most of Kawahara’s work was done through watercolour on paper. Because of the minute details shown in his work, Kawahara Keiga has often been called ‘a photographer without a camera’. The silk folding screen he painted is one of a kind; making this a very special and rare acquisition for Museum Volkenkunde. Kawahara has also painted works on wood, for example in Japanese temples, and his large oeuvre of botanical works would later prove indispensable to European biologists documenting Japanese flora.

In order to acquaint as many people as possible with this masterful folding screen, Museum Volkenkunde has created an immersive online experience. You can zoom in and get up close with various parts of the work and learn more about its historical context through text and video. And what’s more – the online application contains an element of augmented reality, through which you can virtually place the folding screen in your living room or any other location that you desire! Click here  to access the online experience.

Would you like to physically bring a piece of the Deshima folding screen into your home? Then, have a look at the beautiful shawls Hellen van Berkel designed for Museum Volkenkunde! Choose from a bright blue shawl made of fine wool, or a silk shawl with lovely pastel hues. Both shawls are exclusively available in the museum shop of Tropenmuseum and Museum Volkenkunde and with us online.

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