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A Dutchman and his enslaved servant, Japan, ca. 1750.

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The Dutch seen through Japanese eyes


 A Dutchman and his enslaved servant.

Japan, ca. 1750.

Drawing in ink and colour on paper. 115 x 52.5 cm.


Very large and impressive Japanese paper hanging scroll (kakejiku or kakemono) with a coloured drawing depicting a Dutch and an Asian man, the latter as the Dutchman’s enslaved servant. 
            The Dutch traders of the V.O.C. were the only Europeans tolerated in Japan from 1639 until 1853. They were confined to Dejima island off Nagasaki and their movements were carefully watched and strictly controlled. The Japanese were fascinated by these exotic people and depictions of the Dutch by Japanese artists were highly sought after. However, most Japanese artists were not allowed to visit the Dutch on Dejima, so the few images taken of them from life were rapidly copied. Thus archetypes developed with exaggerated characteristics such as a big nose, long curly red hair and enormous length. Also certain attributes recurred in most depictions of the Dutch, some of which are present in the formidable example that we offer here: a bamboo cane, the style of dress and last but not least an enslaved black servant. Much effort was made to accentuate contrast in social position of the two men. The servant is depicted much smaller than his master and hiding behind him while carrying a heavy jug, his head turned away from where his master is looking. The Dutch brought enslaved servants to Japan from their colonies in Indonesia and Sri Lanka, which was highly unusual for the Japanese. The style of dress of the men in this drawing is late 17th or early 18th century but due to the development of the archetype the Japanese continued to depict the Dutch in that fashion well into the 19th century, even though fashion had drastically changed by then. Japanese images of the Dutch were mostly shared in print or miniature sculptures (netsuke). Drawings of them on hanging scrolls are rare and on paper even rarer, especially in the size of the one we offer here (over 1 meter tall).

More information and other examples of Japanese depictions of the Dutch available upon request.

Condition: this drawing on paper would be rolled up, but this type of paper was not suited to be rolled up so it cracked in several places. It was repaired and mounted on paper and a wooden frame support in France in 1977. Stained throughout.

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