Bright and Blue

200 Top-class items of Oriental porcelain from the most important collections in the Netherlands

08 November 2003 to 24 October 2004

The Groninger Museum displayed 200 top-class items of Oriental porcelain from the most important collections in the Netherlands. At the same time, the exhibition marked the departure of curator Prof. Dr Christiaan Jörg, the internationally renowned specialist in the field of Oriental porcelain, who has chosen early retirement. With these pieces, personally selected from the collections of the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam, the Princessehof in Leeuwarden, the Gemeente Museum in The Hague, and the Groninger Museum, Jörg illustrates the high quality of the ‘Collectie Nederland’ (objects in various Dutch collections) in this field.

Oriental ceramics were originally brought to the Netherlands by the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, VOC) which sailed to China and Japan, taking aboard shipments of local porcelain. This porcelain soon became a self-evident part of Dutch interiors. However, the porcelain is also a narration of the cultural interaction between East and West in which the Netherlands fulfilled a pivotal role. It tells the history of the expanding trade with Asia. The connecting themes are the export of Chinese and Japanese porcelain, first to Southeast Asia and then to the West from the 17th century onwards, and the enormous variation in form, decoration, and function.

The pieces belong to the most beautiful and important collections in the Netherlands, and include extremely rare objects such as a large, coloured, 18th-century fishbowl, decorated with scenes depicting the making of porcelain (The Hague), Ming porcelain with floral decoration in copper-red underglaze (Leeuwarden), a large, extremely finely painted egg-shell china bowl (Amsterdam), and a marvellous dish with a series of scenes from a Chinese romance in green enamel colours (Groningen). Some time ago, the above-mentioned museums entered into a co-operative agreement with the aim of placing their collections in the limelight (www.aziatischekeramiek.nl).

Christiaan Jörg has worked as a specialist in the Groninger Museum for twenty-six years, and retired on 1 December 2003. He is an expert in Oriental ceramics and in East-West relations. He is also an Associate Professor at the University of Leiden and the chairman of the Society of Friends of Asian Art.