The small exhibition ‘Mesdag & Japan’ just opened. It can be found at the Mesdag Collection,
Laan van Meerdervoort, The Hague. In Willem and Sientje Mesdag’s former home and museum,
their love of Asian artifacts is explored.
The exhibition starts on the ground floor of the couple’s former home. It continuous on the first
floor, from which visitors can also explore the rest of the museum. In their home and museum,
the Mesdags exhibited their and other artists’ works, as well as collected exotic items.
The exhibition shows Samurai swords, Satsuma vases, large and small artifacts – including
stunning bronzes. Some bills the couple ran up are also displayed.
Willem and Sientje bought their Japan items at art dealers, but also at the Royal Bazar
(‘Koninklijke Bazaar’). This 19th century ‘Bijenkorf’ was located in the nearby Zeestraat. Most
shopping sprees resulted in shocking bills with total sums well over the annual labourer’s salary.
After 1845, once Japan opened its doors to the West and took part in World Fairs, Japanese
objects became a craze. Willem and Sientje joined this craze and bought large and small items.
They appreciated beauty and seemed to have had a weak spot for porcelain.
Many of the exhibited items can be spotted on photos of their home. Their home was
‘revamped’ by their friend and interior designer Theo Colenbrander. One of the carpets he
designed, is displayed in an upstairs exhibition rooms.
Japanese and Asian art inspired Colenbrander. Compare his vases with Japanese items on
display. He was designer at The Hague Rozenburg pottery for four years. During this time, Willem
and Sientje bought many of his stunning works, now owned by this museum.
When visiting this exhibition, do not skip visiting the rest of the museum. The exhibition does
not show all Willem and Sientje’s Japanese and Asian artifacts. Many items are displayed outside
exhibition rooms as well.
Enjoyed this exhibition? Love Japanese art?
Then you may also enjoy another exhibition about an artist who loved Japanese art. From 23rd
of March 2018, the van Gogh Museum welcomes visitors to its exhibition ‘van Gogh & Japan’.
Please note, the Mesdag Collection is open Wednesday till Sunday, noon till 17:00.

Poster courtesy of De Mesdag Collectie

Written by Kate Deni