The Krieger Collection – 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 recently bought these 4 items from a friend.

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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 became Dr 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 history of the Far East including the Japanese language 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 pen. It was Dunhill-Namiki, a cooperation between the famous London retailer of smoking utensils Dunhill and the Japanese pen company of Namiki (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

Nanban 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

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

Portrait by Austro-Hungarian “war painter” Robert Fuchs, WW1

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:

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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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References: http://neustift-am-w…ler/fuchs1.html

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!

Colonial (VOC) Captains chest from the noble Van Hogendorp family estate

Colonial chests

Those who travelled to the Dutch East Indies and had enough money and private space on board often had a private chest made in that region to transport their most precious belongings.

The form, decoration and size would depend on both period (fashion/style) and the owners taste. Most often this would be the captain or a high ranking officer of the vessel. Most vessels traveling to the East Indies in the 18th century would be owned by either the VOC, the United (Dutch) East Indies (trading) Company, or the Dutch navy. Hence the common name for such chests are either VOC/Compagnies chest or Captains’ chest. In later periods the ships became larger and more people could bring on freight items leading to more and simpler variations of chests in the later 19th and 20th century.

This is an example of such a chest from the end of the 18th or early 19th century with some special variations that make it a rare example of an already rare item. Also the provenance is of interest.

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The chest itself is made of tropical hardwood with brass fittings as is usual. This type of wood was called Djati in the East Indies and nowadays is more commonly described as teak. The brass fittings are interesting as all parts end in a stylized Fleur de Lys – the French national symbol. This is not a common treat on such chests. This seems to have been in fashion in the ruling classes in the Netherlands only by the end of the 18th and very early 19th century. The period from 1795 up to 1815 (Waterloo) in which the Netherlands were occupied and ruled by the French. We will come back to that a bit later as we come to the provenance. So far I have only found one similar example in the collection of the Kennemerland museum. This also comes from a noble Dutch family and is dated there as 1790 – 1800.

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The example above from the museum Kennemerland has also the Fleur de Lys decoration as my example but it is larger and the brass fittings are less extensively applied.

TThe second interesting part of the chest is the lid side of the lock plate. The top is in the form of a crown. Although crowns are often only seen as the headdress of kings and their likes in heraldry they are a sign of the rank of nobility. In this case not a Kings crown but that of a Dutch Earl (graaf) with a stylized Fleur de Lys in the middle and two halves on the outsides with pearls in between.

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I have not been able to find any other chests with such a feature yet. These crowns in their various forms are often applied to other personal items from plates to swords, rings and  clothing.

Many of such Captains’ chests are in Museum collections and there is also an antiques dealer in Utrecht that has sold quite a few of these over the years, also several Auction houses sold such chests. They together function as my reference base for this limited research (I have not found any other good reference sources yet).

Now to a third interesting part, the base. This is different than most which either do not have one or if the have it is an integral part of the chest. In this case it is a loose table with standup sidings on which the chest can be placed. This base is made of (tropical?) wood that has been colored black to make it look like ebony. The base again has brass wheels that were only added in the early 20th century when it stood in the hall of the families country house in Vorden.

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The brass fittings of the chest run over the entire underside like they do on the top and all sides are also covered by the fittings which is not standard on most chests either. It protects the chest very well when handled more roughly. A last interesting feature can be seen on both sides of the chest. It has an additional brass fitting that stops the lid around the 90 degree angle, it can not go further than that which prevents it from damage or even breaking the lid. The handles to lift the chest are well made and also have a Fleur de Lys decoration. They are also designed to stop at a 90 degree angle as a safety device for the hands.

Provenance Van Hogendorp noble family.

The Van Hogendorp family has a history that traces back to the 16 century where the first traceable member was counselor in the High Council of Holland. Many family member held important positions both in civilian as in military and naval careers. The family entered nobility during the French reign as Comte de L’Empire (equivalent of Earl or in Dutch Graaf) and a little bit later into the Dutch nobility as well with both Earl and Baron as titles. Some family members had important civilian ranks (Regent of Buitenzorg e.g.) in the East Indies both under French and Dutch royal ruling. Later in the 19th century family members had important careers in the Dutch navy achieving even the rank of admiral and receiving the Military Order of William. Currently it is still being researched which family member had this chest made. It now comes from the estate of a Baron van Hogendorp, a high ranking officer in the Dutch army and from a longer line of Dutch officers.

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