It was only by sheer good fortune that Antoon Bauduin's photographs escaped destruction in a house fire. Luckily, they were saved and restored. They offer us a glimpse of Japan just as it was opening up its borders, revealing traditions in a changing landscape.


The Netherlands was the only western country granted access to Japan until 1859. After that, several western powers forced access to Japanese trade ports, and the Netherlands lost its privileged position. This collection of photographs marks the end of the special relationship that had existed between Japan and the Netherlands since the 17th century.


Antoon Bauduin (1820-1885) arrived in Japan in 1862. He was a physician, and the Japanese government had invited him to teach at Nagasaki Yojosho Medical School. Antoon’s brother Albert (1829-1890) was also working in Japan at the time, for the Netherlands Trading Society (NHM) on Dejima, an artificial island in Nagasaki Bay.

Just as many of us do nowadays, Antoon often photographed the people he knew. But as well as taking pictures of colleagues, students, friends and acquaintances, he captured scenes in and around Nagasaki. Antoon’s portraits in particular are far more informal than those taken by professional photographers working in studios – because he knew his subjects personally, they were more relaxed posing for him than they would have been for someone else. The collection captures the time frame of a nation undergoing change, with ships at anchor in Nagasaki Bay, samurai, farmers during harvest, and Bauduin himself in a portrait with a Japanese colleague from the hospital where he taught.


Taking photographs was no simple matter in the late 19th century – you needed lots of equipment, so you couldn’t just grab a snapshot along the way. That’s why the brothers would also purchase photographs, especially when they were travelling in Japan and on the long outward and homeward voyages. The exhibition also includes a selection of these photographs.


Antoon and Albert left Japan in 1870 and 1874 respectively, and their family in the Netherlands stored their collection of photographs. It was only rediscovered in 1985, following a fire at the family’s home – until that moment, no one knew of the existence of these remarkable images. In 2016, the heirs, the Munster van Heuven-Sprenger van Eyk family, donated 121 of the photographs to us so that we could restore and conserve them for future generations.

With the restoration of the fire-damaged photographs now complete, we are able, for the first time, to present an exhibition of almost 50 of the photographs. Come and discover 19th-century Japan.

Past exhibition


  • Adults: €20
  • Free for 18 and under
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Museumstraat 1
1071 XX Amsterdam


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Antoon Bauduin, a physician who loved photography