One of the most interesting and particular phases in the history of collecting in Lombardy.
In the mid-1800s, a silkworm pandemic led some of Europe’s main textile merchants to explore southern Asia to find uncontaminated silkworm seeds.
Fascinated by the superior skill and refined materials of Asian craftsmanship encountered during their travels, they returned from their commercial mission with impressive selections of Chinese and Japanese artworks: silk robes, embroidered fabrics, kimonos, theater masks, calligraphy sets, scepters, painted porcelain and finely engraved bronze sculptures.
Most of the objects on display come from two endowments, the Carlo Giussani collection and Giovanni Battista Lucini Passalacqua’s so-called Japanese museum.
In Japan, what distinguishes this figure from that of the original Shaka Buddha (Gautama) is the position of the hands, resting on the lap with interlocked fingers and index and thumb forming a ring.
Most works date to the end of the Edo era (1603-1868), a long period of peace that favored the flourishing of the arts in Japan.
The most common materials associated with late 19th century Japanese art are textiles, lacquers, and bronzes.
However, Passalacqua, Giussani, and Meazza collected also innovative ceramic artwork, painted scrolls, weapons, and small clothing accessories.
In Japan, netsuke quickly became sought after as collectibles for their elaborate manufacture and evaluated according to their artist’s signature.
They come in various shapes and forms, representing everyday work objects connected with trades, real or imaginary animals associated with the horoscope or with auspicious word plays, deities, or caricatured figures.