From 1906 until 1951, over a period of 45 years, Alfred Baur assembled a collection of Japanese art consisting of over 6000 works, with strong emphasis on the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries, representing the Edo period (1603-1868), the Meiji (1868-1912) and Taishô (1912-1926) eras, as well as the first years of the Shôwa (1926-1989) era. The main categories represented ( sword furnishing, netsuke, and lacquerware), which account for three-quarters of the collection, reflect Baur’s fascination with minutely worked objects of small size, as well as his taste for quality and technical perfection. Baur also acquired an important collection of Japanese ukiyo-e prints, including a large number of triptychs, by the great masters of the early 19th century Utagawa school, such as Hiroshige, Kuniyoshi, and Kunisada.
Baur’s other Japanese collections, less large but just as important on the artistic level, include ceramics, notably Nabeshima and Arita porcelain, pipes and other tobacco cases, Buddhist brocade altar cloths (uchishiki), as well as Meiji-period cloisonné, and in particular the production of the Kyôto workshop of Namikawa Yasuyuki (1845-1927).
With the complete refurbishment of the Japanese floor, all of the above-mentioned categories can now be presented to the public on a permanent basis. By an optimal use of space and a highly versatile system of lighting, the exhibition surface has been considerably enlarged and improved. It now includes two new features: rooms dedicated to the arts of the tea ceremony, and a display case specially designed for prints and textiles, fragile works whose conservation requires them to be changed at regular intervals throughout the year. Despite these transformations, however, those visitors who remember the former presentation will still find, in the rooms devoted to sword furnishings and lacquerware, the drawers which have been a museological strongpoint of our museum since its opening. Introductory panels and detailed information sheets, in both French and English, complete the presentation.
The Ethnographical Museum of Geneva (MEG) has generously loaned our museum a complete suit of samourai armour which is on display at the entrance to the Japanese floor.