Ottoman yataghan sword

Some time ago I had to buy an entire collection to get hold of two very nice rentjong for my own collection. Most items came from different regions and quickly went to other collections but there was one piece I kep out of fascination with it.

It is a nice yataghan, a typical short sword of the Ottoman empire used for a very long period. This one is probably 19th century.

One side it has an inscription in old Turkish that is quite common on Ottoman yataghans.

Darbından bu bıçağın cümle düşman tar ü mar
İntikam alır aduvvdan sanki misli zülfikar

Which can be roughly translated as:

All the enemies are decimated from the blow of this knife
It takes revenge from enemies as if it was Ali’s (RA) sword Zulfikar

In the middle of the text is a stamp that is probably the makers mark. The other side only has a simple decoration engraved.

The steel is laminated, and might be wootz.

The handle has long “ears” as they are called and it is made of walrus ivory. The fittings of the handle seem to be made of gilded brass with red coral stones in them.

The sheath has a ribbed wooden base covered with very fine leather that is kept together with brass wire. All parts of the yataghan show a high level of craftmanship.

Despite the fact that it does not fit any of my collecting themes it has received a home in my current collection. As this is out of my area of knowledge please let me know if I have made a misstake in the description!

Thilly Weissenborn of photo studio ,,Lux”, Java

Thilly Weissenborn (1889-1964) became known as the first female professional photographer of the colonial Dutch East Indies, She photographed mainly in Western-Java (Garoet) working for and later owning Photo Studio ,,Lux”.

Original period (1917-1941) prints made by her are getting hard to find and are very collectable. In my collection I have an album with several of her photo’s. Some with the trademark of Lux and some unmarked but known photo’s by her.

This photo is titled “tea picker from Sundan (Indonesian Island) as she looks in real life” contrasting some other work Weissenborn made that was more “promotional” for the tea industry.

It seems to be an album of a mother and daughter covering a world trip in the 1920s visiting many countries including the East Indies. The album starts in the UK, going to Shanghai, Japan and Indonesia but ending again in Europe (Germany). Photo’s like these were bought and added to the privately made pictures. There are many professional pictures from Indonesia from which only some are confirmed by Lux.

Two pictures in Japan with the same mother and daughter combination and a photo of a large group in Indonesia, none of these by Lux of course.

Photo by Lux of unknown location
The Western Javanese Garoet plains from the “Ngamplang” sanatorium/hotel by Lux

All pictures from my own collection. Several original Lux pictures from the album went to a friend. The album had several loose pictures and many empty pages were the photo’s were already removed before the album came into my collection.

Source: Vastgelegd voor later, Indische foto’s van Thilly Weissenborn – Verzameld door Ernst Drissen, 1983

German Hussar by Hoynck van Papendrecht

This is another work of the famous Dutch artist Jan Hoynck van Papendrecht who specialized in military subject. His full biography you can read here. And I have more extensive story about another watercolour by him in an earlier blog

This specific watercolour depicts a German Hussar (light cavalry) of the Brandenburger Husaren Regiment Nr. 3 – Husaren Regiment Von Zieten (Brandenburgisches) Nr. 3 and has the typical refinement of HvP.

It is dated 1901 in which period he made trip to Germany to study their uniforms and make paintings. There are several more of similar paintings from the same period that can be found here

Hussar Attack, 1915 Bronze by Szamosi

This bronze is titled “Huszár Roham” (in Hungarian) which translates in “Attack of the Hussars”. The Hussars are the traditional Hungarian horse cavalry and has become a generic name for light cavalry units in all armies in Europe in the 19th and early 20th century. During WW1 horses bacame outdated in the course of the war and many cavalry units became “dismounted”, so on foot, without their horses. In 1915, the date of this work, the Hussars were still very much in action with their horses. Especially on the Eastern front, fighting against the Russians over large areas with relatively few people.

This original bronze (probably the only existing example) was made by the Hungarian artist Szamosi. It took me years to find this out. I always thought the first letter was a R in place of the actual SZ.  Szamosi lived between 1885 and 1971 and specialized in medals and plaquettes. This one is of a formidable size, 30 cm in diameter.

When I found it I had a difficult time to establish how to display this work of art. Finally I decided to have it framed as a “painting” with the 2 screws it has on the back.

Not sure where and how is was placed originally, maybe on a wall? Before the war Szamosi was already active both as an artist and as an educator at the Arts Academy.

His most famous works are from the 1910s and 1920s. During the first world war he made several works of art related to the war like this one.

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Reference: Szamosi Soos

Chinese Qing Dynasty work of art by Ding Guanpeng?

This work of art I bought a long time ago when I was somewhere between 12 and 15. when. In those years, together with my late father Herman, we went to all kinds of flea and antique markets to find nice things. On such a quest we found this part of a Chinese scroll  in a local (which was Deventer in that period) antique shop. Although it was not expensive I did not have the money to buy it. Because I liked it very much my father decided to buy it for me. In my 20s, when I had some money I had it framed and more recently I had it framed in a more fitting frame with museum quality glass.

Those more than 30 years I have had this work of art in my possession I never researched it further. Now with the possibilities of internet I finally was able to find out something more – many thanks again for the help Internet collecting communities!

It is probably from the 1720-1770 period which falls under the Chinese Qing Dynasty. The artist may be the famous “Ding Guanpeng” one of the great painters of the early Qing period.

Ding Guapeng is also well known for his depictions of the 18 Luohans he made for the Qianlang emperor. The scene shows two of the 18 Arhats or Luohans, the original first followers of Buddha on their mythical beasts in the clouds. Based on the info I found on Wikipedia I think on the left is Pindola the Bharadvaja described there as: Sitting dignified on a deer, as if in deep thought. With perfect composure, contented with being above worldly pursuits. And to the right is Nantimitolo tamer of the Dragon described as : In the hands are the spiritual pearl and the holy bowl, endowed with power that knows no bounds. Full of valour, vigour and awe-inspiring dignity, to succeed in vanquishing the ferocious dragon.

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The seal is not of the artist – if it ever was signed that part of the scroll has been lost in time – it is a collectors seal and the seal is Japanese, not Chinese. So this work of art went from China to a Japanese collection before it came to the Netherlands (and who knows where in between…).  The seal reads 佐渡 良 Sado Ryo 藏書 books of collection ( Sado Ryo is alias of 坪井 信良 Tsuboi Shinryo 1823-1904 ) So it is safe to say is was collected in the 19th century.

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(http://wiki.samurai-archives.com/index.php?title=Tsuboi_Shinryo):

Tsuboi Shinryo Born: 1823/8/28 Died: 1904/11/9 Japanese: 坪井信良 (Tsuboi Shinryou)
Tsuboi Shinryô was a Rangaku medical scholar of the Bakumatsu and Meiji periods, and the father of Tsuboi Shôgorô, known as one of the “fathers” of Japanese anthropology.
Shinryô was born in Takaoka, Etchû province, the second son of Sado Yôjun. He began studying medicine under Koishi Genzui in Kyoto in 1840, and later studied under Tsuboi Shindô in Edo and Ogata Kôan in Osaka, before being adopted by Tsuboi Shindô in 1844/9. He later served as domain physician and educator at the han school of Fukui han, under lord of Fukui, Matsudaira Shungaku, before becoming an assistant scholar at the Tokugawa shogunate’s Bansho shirabesho. He became a physician in service to the shogunate in 1864, and was shortly afterwards bestowed the title of hôgen.
Shinryô established the first medical magazine in Japan in 1873, the Waran iji zasshi, and published a number of other works as well over the course of his career. The magazine lasted 43 issues, ending in December 1875. Meanwhile, Shinryô was named head of the Tokyo Prefectural Hospital in December 1874, and retired three years later.

Krieger – Tsuba’s, Netsuke and a war tale too!

For a long time I have been very interested in Japanese applied arts, netsuke, inro and tsuba’s mainly. Although I stopped collecting such items actively I still bought these 4 items from a friend.

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Photo from Utrecht University, see sources

The provenance wat too interesting to let them pass by. The friends grandfather was Professor Dr. C.C. Krieger. He collected these items in the first half of the 20th century when he was the Conservator for the Department of Japan, China and mainland Asia in what today is the Ethnographical Museum (Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde) in Leiden. He held this position from 1927 up to his retirement in 1949.

In 1935 he promoted to PhD in the Japanese language and the same year he became professor in the same subject at the Utrecht University. In 1947 he was promoted to special professor (bijzonder hoogleraar) in the art and history of the Far East including the Japanese language, a position which he held upon his final retirement in 1954, aged 70.

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Dunhill-Namiki fountain pen

About 20 years before I had already received his fountain pen as a gift for my collection. Being a specialist in the Japanese language and art he obviously wrote with a luxurious Japanese lacquer pen. It was a Dunhill-Namiki, a cooperation between the famous London retailer of smoking utensils Dunhill and the Japanese pen company of Namiki (the current Pilot). These Namiki pens are famous for the lacquer (maki-e) of high quality and also were made by famous artists. Dunhill retailed them in the Western world. In this case the pen was used intensively. It is a rare pen as a size 20 (the biggest they made apart from the jumbo size 50) in a period that watches and pens were still small in general. A very appreciated gift and still one of my favorites!


His extensive collection of Japanese art was divided between his 3 children, amongst which the mother of my friend. She held on to the inheritance and after her death her two daughters inherited the collection and I was happy to gain these 4 objects from his original collection.

Netsuke

Two netsuke, toggles for the inro. One a relatively crude depiction of a foreigner and the other a depiction of a famous Japanese tale.

Nanban Tsuba

The other two items are tsuba or handguards for the Japanese swords. In this case foreign imported items most probably and adapted for Japanese use. In Japan these are called nanban. If the professor had a special interest in Japanese items with a different origin or depiction of foreigners is not known. Below a short description I received regarding these tsuba.

Martial arts meet the decorative arts. The round guard looks Chinese, Ming in style, but possibly a later revival piece. Note the voal delinaeation of the washer-seat on one side, which on the opposite side is rectangular. More study is required to determine the date of manufacture.

The octagonal one may be Korean. In both cases, these guards have been adapted to Japanese use. Unfortunately, the addition of hitsu-ana has defaced the original design. The condition appears to be outstanding.

Damascened guards do no fare so well under heavy use. Neither of these guards seem to have been worn “in the field”. Both were well cared-for by previous owners. Their preservation today is thanks to the uniquely Japanese culture of appreciating sword-parts as works of art in their own right.

Dr. Krieger and the War against the Japanese

Even though the items are not military in essence there is a small link to a military history due to the person of the original owner!

In the 1930s Japanese influence in Asia was expanding and felt threatening for most Western powers in the region. The Dutch with their presence in the Dutch East Indies were part of this fear. The actual extend of the threat would finally become clear with the start of the war against the Japanese from Pearl Harbour onwards.

In these 1930s the Dutch Military Intelligence already worked on breaking the codes the Japanese used for their international communications. What I was not aware of when I started this blog is that Dr. Krieger actually was part of this effort!

A collecting friend has several items in his collection that relate to this subject and he brought this fact to my attention. It is even mentioned in the book by Robert Haslach about the subject. The dutch Naval officer Nuboer asked for the help of Krieger (also a former Naval officer!) in his effort in breaking the Japanese codes in 1934. Nuboer would eventually be successful in his efforts! You can read some more about him here.

The friend has in his private collection a Naval uniform of Nuboer and a tropical suit that belonged to Krieger. Here some pictures of the Nuboer uniform.

How Nuboer and Krieger came into contact is not yet clear and subject of further research I want to do. What is clear that the help of a former Naval officer with extensive knowledge of the Japanese and their language was valuable to the Dutch Forces.

This was formalized in 1937. Henri Koot, the head of military intelligence requested his official help. Krieger would become, next to his job as Curator of the Asian department of the Leiden Ethnographical Museum, member of the General Staff of the Army in The Hague. His work would only end after the German occupation in 1940. Due to the secrecy of the job and the subsequent war little is known about this period but it will also be subject of further research!

Sources: 

  • http://resources.huygens.knaw.nl/bwn1880-2000/lemmata/bwn4/nuboer
  • https://profs.library.uu.nl/index.php/profrec/getprofdata/1188/147/183/0
  • https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_Koot
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synchronicity
  • Private collection including Krieger suit from the collection of the late Sjoerd Douma and Nuboer Naval uniform
  • Robert Haslach; Nishi No Kaze Hare

Atjeh & Gajo status Rencong

In my earlier blog I already described the status weapons of the Aceh and Gayo regions of Sumatra to some extend. Here I want to show some detailed photo’s of the quality of workmanship in these status weapons! Remember the golden crowns are rare, maybe only 1 in a 100 examples have these….

Aceh rencong with golden crowns

An overview of 4 rencong, probably all 19th century pieces with the original sheaths on three of them. Short description from left to right and top to bottom:

  • Handle is made of “white” buffalo horn as opposed to the more common dark horn. Enamel of the crowns is of very high quality.
  • Handle made of Akar Bahar, root of the sea, which is very brittle and probably the rarest handle material. The back part therefore also of gold with a diamond (inten) on top. A very high status item.
  • Handle of dark horn and smooth as opposed to the first and last handle. Top of the metal also has very nice gold inlays.
  • Dark buffalo handle and the biggest size rencong of these four with some old battle damage and likely the oldest of these.

Note that the bottom two crowns have a very high quality of enamel and the top two ones hardly have any enamel.

Gayo status rencong with silver and (marine) ivory

In the Gayo region the use of silver was more common on status pieces. Also the use of marine ivory (dandan) was quite common. Also the first metal part often has an overlay in copper or suassa.

The first has an unusual size, the longest of all seven rencong in this blog. Also the combination of ivory, silver crowns and suassa overlay is remarkable. Probably of ritual meaning or very high status.

The second is a more standard Gayo status rencong with brass overlay and only ivory on the handle. Both have the typical blood groove that is more or less standard on Gayo made pieces.

The third seems to be a Aceh made piece for the Gayo region. The use of a full silver handle with suassa details and the sheath hint at Gayo use but the quality of workmanship hint at Aceh. An interesting cross cultural rencong.

Input and help in determining age and details of these rencong is more than welcome, please contact me with additional info!

Austro-Hungarian “war painter” Robert Fuchs

This portrait was made by Robert Fuchs (signed R Fuchs Im Felde 1917) I found it in Hungary some years back. So far I have not been able to establish who this officer is.

Robert Fuchs, “Kriegsmaler”

During the first worldwar the Austro-Hungarian empire used artist to make professional paintings of the war. Not only local but also foreign artists, even a quite famous Dutch artist acted as such, but that is a different story alltogether. These painters did not become part of the army but were paid by it for their services, they were called war painters or in German Kriegsmaler. Sometimes they were attached to a specific unit or a theatre of war.

See for pictures of a war painter at work my other blog!

Robert Fuchs, born in 1896 was such a painter. After the war he went on to become a fulltime professional artist after completing his studies on the Viennese Academy for the Arts. Despite specializing in portraits one of his most famous paintings became the official painting for the 1955 Austrian State treaty pictured below (photo from an internet source):

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Austro-Hungarian officer – R. Fuchs 1917 Im Felde

This portait is of a still unkown officer. Based on the awards he was quite successful in the war with at least an Austro-Hungarian Iron Crown order 3rd class. (first and highest award of the row of ribbons) which is quite rare for a mere captain. The other ribbons are of generic issue for war related medals. Probably one Military Merit cross 3rd class and two Military Merit medals, both the bronze and the silver version. Next to this he has two ribbons in the button hole. One is clearly for the German Iron Cross second class. The second probably is for the Turkish War medal. Those Iron Crescents are most often seen being worn on the breast and very seldom as here with a ribbon in the buttonhole.

The single loop on his shoulder in combination with the combination of medals hint at the possibility that he was one of the few Austro-Hungarian artillery men sent to fight on the Ottoman front with the Turks and the Germans.

More input for the naming of this officer is more than welcome!

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Still Life with Medals by P.C. Kramer, 1920

It is not so often that you find a still life with Dutch medals on it, let alone colonial medals. As it directly fits my Dutch East Indies medal collection I was quite happy when I was able to acquire this painting by the Dutch Artist P.C. Kramer.

Kramer is a relatively well known painter and his work is shown in several Dutch museums. . He lived between 1879 and 1940 in Delft. The painting discussed in the blog below also hints at a background related to the Dutch East indies, like the medals in my painting.

On the painting there are several medals. The top medalrow starts with a Medal for long and faithful service for NCO’s. The Dutch Expedition Cross is depicted twice, in the top medalrow in the middle and in the bottom medalrow to the right. The top row ends with the 1873-74 Atjeh medal.

The Citadel Medal for the siege of Antwerp in the left corner is a bit unexpected next to the Expedition Cross.

It looks like the painter was not an expert in medals as they are shown in the wrong order in the top row, the Atjeh medal is upside down and the bottom row is a very unlikely combination. Combining this with his year of birth they were possibly family heirlooms.

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Jan Hoynck van Papendrecht – the story behind one of his works

Jan Hoynck van Papendrecht (1858-1933, HvP in short) was a well known Dutch artist who is remembered mostly for his works of art in relation to military themes. So his works have the interest of both art museums and collectors and military museums and collectors of military artifacts. More about his life and work can be found here: http://hoynck-van-papendrecht.nl/

I have two works of art from his hand in my collection. At first I was not able to get the story behind one of these picture here but fortunately Jacques Bartels of the website above and author of the biography of HvP was able to help.

The drawing is actually an illustration from the book “My lady nobody” by Maarten Maartens a Dutch writer who wrote in English so was actually not very well known in the Netherlands as a result of that. More about him and his works can be found here: http://maartenmaartens.nl/

The book is now part of the Gutenberg project so has been digitalized including the illustrations made by HvP and can be found here: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/49903/49903-h/49903-h.htm

The illustration is of the to main characters of the book Ursula and Gerard Baron van Helmont who is an officer in the Dutch East Indies and recently returned home after being wounded in Aceh. For his action he was knighted with the prestigious Military Order of William which can be seen on his chest.

Below the illustration as it appeared in the book.

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“‘I AM COME TO MAKE CONFESSION AND THEN TO LEAVE YOU’”

And the actual drawing as it looks today:

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Where HvP is known for his use of colour in his water colours in this case the use is minimal as it was to be printed in black and white. But his signature quality is there in abundance in this really nice work by him!