The excitement created by Asian treasures shipped to Holland during the Golden Age is the subject of an upcoming blockbuster show at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Asia in Amsterdam Exotic luxury in the Golden Age runs from October 17 to January 17, 2016. 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.
Chinese blue-and-white porcelain was especially popular. It was much thinner, smoother and lighter than the earthenware made in Holland. The making of earthenware was soon refined in Delft, leading to the famous ‘Delft Blue’, with Chinese origins. Coloured Japanese porcelain first appeared around 1660, imported by Dutch East India Company officials returning from the Far East. This created another sensation and, 20 years later, the exclusive and therefore expensive Kakiemon porcelain was the big favourite among the Dutch elite. Dutch interiors changed enormously under the influence of the treasures from Asia. Porcelain was displayed on specially designed shelves and consoles. Imported silk and cotton introduced much more colour and variation in the shape of bedspreads, curtains and wall tapestries.
With 170 objects from China, Japan, India and Batavia the exhibition presents many 17th century paintings: still-lifes and portraits of citizens who had themselves painted among their newly acquired items of Asian luxury. It is being organised in cooperation with the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, USA. The loan items originate in Moscow, St Petersburg, Versailles, London, Oxford, Madrid and Stockholm.