The collector and the goblets way from Japan to Europe

When Fisscher passes by the shop of the unknown craftsman or his dealer in Hakone Mountains, the goblet apparently intrigues him insomuch that he can not hesitate to acquire it for his collection. Who is this man, who shows such fundamental curiosity in things Japanese, especially, when he finds objects of a craftsman who is extraordinarily good in his trade? And what led Fisscher to the other end of the world anyway?

The goblet, once in Fisscher’s possession is shipped to Holland, where it changes owner to no less than the Dutch King William I himself. In 1816 this king has established the Dutch Royal Cabinet, which, according to Forrer (2000, p. 159), encouraged collecting Japanese objects in a new systematic way in order to keep and make the best use of the Dutch’ exclusive relationship with Japan. For the collectors, the possibility of selling their collection to this cabinet forms undeniably an incentive. Thus, three men in service of the VOC bring together significant collections of Japanese material culture. Today the Japan collections of F. van Overmeer Fisscher, J. Cock Blomhoff and Philipp Franz von Siebold’s (1796-1866) first court journey (1826) form the core of the Japanese section in the RMV.

At the time Fisscher buys the goblet, he has left Holland already three years earlier in 1819 to work for the VOC. After arriving at the Dutch trading post Dejima in Nagasaki in 1820, he makes a fast career becoming first clerk the same year and warehouse master – the third rank on Dejima Island after the opperhoofd (chief of the trading post) and the physician – in 1823. During his stay in Japan until 1829[7] he accompanied Jan Cock Blomhoff on the court journey in 1822 (Forrer 1996, p. 49). As he has limited possibility to get hold of Japanese things in Nagasaki, he grasps the opportunity to extend his collection on this three-months round trip across the Japanese archipelago. Travelling in a palanquin and short distances by boat, Fisscher and his travel companions chief Blomhoff and physician N. Tullingh (Forrer 2000 CJ, p. 11) had the chance to get a glimpse of the country and the Japanese way of life, which Fisscher as well as Blomhoff describe in their notes.

Being back in The Netherlands in 1830, Fisscher presents a part of his collection of about 1200 objects in his house in Herengracht in Amsterdam to visitors. In the following year he offers it to the King and in 1832 sells it for Dfl 41,600 to the Royal Cabinet of Curiosities. It was not displayed together with Blomhoff’s collection, but exhibited at the Binnenhof in The Hague (Forrer 2000, p. 164).

Fisscher is also asked to arrange the objects and write a catalogue, which he presents in the same year[8]. Yet, his court journey dates back ten years. One year later, in 1833, he issues a book concerning Japanese culture, the above-mentioned Bidrage tot de Kennis van het Japansche Rijk (Contributions to the knowledge of the Japanese Empire)[9], where he also describes the court journey. Still, he is not content with the presentation of his collection, when he visits The Hague in 1841 after being some years abroad. (Forrer, 1996, p. 51)

His collection is united with the other Japan collections when a suitable location is found in the former Academic Hospital, the Academisch Ziekenhuis, in Leiden (Vos, 2000). Only in 1883, the National Museum of Ethnology (RMV) in Leiden opens its doors to the public, and all three collections are exhibited together, presenting a distinctive picture of “exotic” Asia.


Next: Conclusion


[7] interrupted shortly in 1824/1825

[8] See entry at the top

[9] see bibliography


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