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"Within Reach of Asia: Collectors and merchants of Asian art in France (1750-1930)"

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An exhibition at the Musée des Beaux-arts of Dijon until 22 January 2024


Conceived in partnership with the Institut national d'histoire de l'art (INHA) and recognised as an exhibition of "national interest" by the French Ministry of Culture, the exhibition offers visitors a chance to discover two centuries of enthusiasm for Asian art in France.


China, Qing dynasty, Kangxi period (1662-1722) [porcelain], and Paris, circa 1730-1740 (hallmarks and mount)

Turquoise-glazed porcelain, silver mount

H. with accessory 29 cm; W. with accessory 15 cm

Paris, Musée du Louvre, department des objets d'art, inv. R 392

Exceptional loans


Featuring over 300 works of great technical, historical and geographical diversity, and bringing together national collections and regional Far Eastern holdings, the exhibition is an opportunity to discover the wealth of Asian collections in the regions, such as the holdings of Florine Langweil in Colmar and Strasbourg, Jules Adeline in Rouen and Adhémard Leclère in Alençon, and more specifically the Dijon collections, where around a hundred objects have benefited from restoration work ahead of the exhibition. This was the case for the Coromandel screen, a masterpiece from the "Chinese cabinet" of Dijon parliamentarian Jehannin de Chamblanc in the 17th century, which was the subject of the very first participatory sponsorship initiative launched by Dijon's museums.

Eight-panel folding screen. Palace scene, the arrival of a delegation and festivities in honour of the Tang general Guo Ziyi 郭子儀 (697-781)

China, Qing dynasty, Kangxi (1662-1722) or Qianlong (1736-1795) period, late 17th-18th century

Wood, "Coromandel lacquer" (engraved and coloured decoration known as kuan cai 款彩, polychromy, gilding)

H. 135; L. 346; Thickness 1.8 cm

Dijon, Musée des beaux-arts, inv. CA 1631-1 to CA 1631-8


The art of collecting


The museum's exhibition explores the changing ways in which collected objects were used and imagined, against a backdrop of growing interest in the Far East as trade intensified.


The exhibition highlights the role of 18th-century marchands merciers in promoting Asian objects, and the inventive transformation and distribution of these products to an aristocratic clientele. Then, following the forced opening of China's and then Japan's borders, the development of a specialised market in the 19th century gave rise to a new enthusiasm for Asia that combined collecting and erudition. It was this scholarly approach that nurtured the remarkable careers of art dealers such as Florine Langweil, who established herself as a leading expert at major sales at Hôtel Drouot. A major donor to Parisian museums, she also donated a significant part of her collection to create the first Asian art sections in the museums of Colmar, Mulhouse and Strasbourg in her native Alsace.

Kitagawa Utamaro 喜多川歌麿 (1753-1806)

Yamauba 山姥 and Kintarō 金太郎 : Tobacco Smoke

Japan, Edo period (1603-1868), 1801-1803

Woodcut, ink and colours on paper

Publisher: Tsutaya Jūzaburō 蔦屋重三郎

H. 38.2; W. 25.7 cm (ôban format)

Strasbourg, Cabinet des estampes et des dessins, inv. MAD XX.149

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The exhibition explores the intensification of the flow of objects from the mid-nineteenth century onwards, through both official diplomatic and commercial missions, and exploratory missions that were passed on to the public via the narrative of the Voyage. The first field studies at the turn of the twentieth century further broadened the artistic, archaeological, and ethnographic fields of interest in Asia, encouraging the development of collections that were far removed from the exoticism of an Asia "at home".

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Screen with the eight virtues of Confucianism (munjado)

Korea, Chosǒn period (1392-1910), 19th century

Wood, ink and colours on paper

H. 84; L. 240 cm

Paris, Musée national des arts asiatiques - Guimet, inv. MG 15225



Finally, the musée des Beaux-Arts in Dijon is offering a contemporary counterpoint to the exhibition, with a selection of works by Japanese artist Gentaro Murakami. His paintings, based on old photographs, reflect the changes in Japanese society in the first half of the 20th century, between tradition and westernisation. Murakami questions the way in which Japan is viewed in the West and compares representations of a bygone Japan with a fantasised France.

Gentaro Murakami

Family Portrait


Oil on canvas

H. 150; L. 200 cm

Artist’s collection

© Gentaro Murakami

© ADAGP, Paris, 2023

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Exhibition curated by:

Catherine Tran-Bourdonneau, Heritage curator, in charge of the extra-European collections at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Dijon

Pauline d’Abrigeon, Curator in charge of the Chinese collections at the Baur Foundation, Museum of Far Eastern Art in Geneva

Pauline Guyot, Research Fellow at the INHA, in charge of the "Collectors and dealers of Asian art in France. 1700-1939 "


With the contribution of

Agnès Werly, In charge of the 20th and 21st century collections at the Museums of Dijon, for the Contemporary Counterpoint: Gentaro Murakami


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