Accepted Paper:

Japan in Venice: The Collection of the Oriental Art Museum in Venice  


Marta Boscolo Marchi (Ministry for cultural heritage and activities and tourism)

Paper short abstract:

Born as the private collection of Prince Henry of Bourbon in 1889, the Oriental Art Museum in Venice became a public institution in 1928. Changes in the reception of the artifacts as well as in the museum over time show shifts in the perception of oriental art and its place in the cultural context.

Paper long abstract:

In 1889, thirty thousands Chinese, Indonesian and above all Japanese objects were collected in Vendramin Calergi palace in Venice. Their owner was Prince Henry of Bourbon, who was just come back from a long journey in Asia. The desire to own and capture the spirit of the local culture through its products and artworks became a sort of obsession for Henry. When he died in 1905, his wife passed the collection to the Austrian firm Trau, who sold nearly 10.000 objects from 1907 to 1914. The purchasers were not only the international high society but also many European Museums.

After the First World War Trau's heritage was confiscated and the collection became a State Museum. It was open to the public in 1928 in Ca' Pesaro in Venice: the first director was Eugenio Barbantini who chose a very suggestive setting in order to astound the public.

In 1937 and 1942 some objects with a predominant anthropological interest were delivered to Padua university while the museum adapted the rooms to the new conservation criteria, creating a storage to recover the most delicate artworks and transforming the structure.

Since 2016 a new historical building in Venice has been chosen by the government to house the museum. The architectural project and the new setting up of the collection will respond to the modern needs of enhancement and conservation, helping the Western public to approach a world that, despite mass media and low cost flights, still sounds like exotic and mysterious.

Panel P006
Museums of Asian Arts outside Asia: Questioning Artefacts, Cultures and Identities