Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollectionsFeatures

THE NETHERLANDS

Siebold House pays homage to Dutchman's connection to Japan

November 22, 2009|By Susan Spano

Reporting from Leiden, Netherlands — For a small town, Leiden has a surprising number of museums dedicated to natural history, medical science, antiquity and the city's past. A gem among them is the Siebold House on tree-lined Rapenburg Canal, opened to the public in 1837 by a Bavarian surgeon who collected wonders as an agent for the Dutch East India Co. in Japan.

This year marks the 400th anniversary of Holland's special trade relationship with Japan, forged long before the hermetic Asian nation opened its doors to the West. Dutch merchants, permitted to work and live on Deshima Island in Nagasaki Bay, brought European technology to Japan and took examples of exquisite Japanese arts and crafts to Holland.

As a physician, Philipp von Siebold had special access to the mainland, where he treated patients, took a common-law wife, opened a clinic and traveled to Edo (later Tokyo), the capital. Although he was ultimately condemned as a spy and banished, he amassed a collection of 25,000 art, ethnographic and natural science specimens before his departure in 1829.

That collection, now housed at Siebold House in Leiden, includes stunning lacquerware and porcelain, delicate textiles, prints and maps, a scale model of a rich Japanese merchant's house, shells, fish, herbs, even a preserved snake.

Of special interest is a display on the Siebold Incident, which tells the story of the doctor's alleged espionage, his refusal to reveal to authorities his Japanese friends and informants, and his offer to remain in Japan the rest of his life.

Siebold House, 19 Rapenburg, Leiden; 011-31-71-512-5539, www.sieboldhuis.org.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|