Explore Art \\ Collection
Edward Sylvester Morse’s passion for Japan created a distinctive collection.
PEM’s remarkably long relationship with Japan extends back more than 200 years. With its holdings of everyday objects complemented by significant examples of the fine arts, the museum’s Japanese collection is distinguished for its range, from paintings and sculpture to decorative arts, costumes, and textiles. Spanning Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south, and prehistoric periods to the present, these objects illuminate the country's varied artistic and cultural traditions.
Until the end of the Edo period (1615–1868), the Dutch were the only Western merchants permitted to trade with Japan. Between 1797 and 1807, however, the Dutch East India Company chartered twelve American ships that sailed to the island nation. Among them, the Franklin and the Margaret set sail from Salem, reaching Nagasaki Harbor in 1799 and 1801, respectively. Teacups and saucers brought back by the Margaret’s captain, Samuel Gardner Derby, represent the aesthetics of everyday Japanese objects. Donated to the East India Marine Society in 1803, they are considered among the first Japanese works to enter an American institution.
Explore some highlights from the collection