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Met Celebrates Victorian Ballers

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In New Exhibit Japanese Art: American Collectors and the Met

Text & Styling by bill indursky
Images Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
February 24, 2015

Marking 100 years of collecting Japanese art, the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) offers a new exhibit Discovering Japanese Art: American Collectors and the Met, February 14 – September 27, 2015, which chronicles important gifts by American collectors of Japanese art to the institution. In 1854, a treaty with Japan opened the country to Westerns, allowing America’s wealthy to travel and collect Japanese art. A varietal who’s who of Victorian society donated to The Met, helping the institution build a world class collection the public can enjoy.

INSIDER TIP: The Met’s Japanese collection is located in the former upstairs offices making it off the beaten tourist path—perfect to explore the collection in peace.


We thought it would be fun for you to guess if the people below are Victorian “ballers” with NBA-style money or just a painfully hip hipster. You decide and when ready scroll down to see the answers.

Stephen Whitney Phoenix was heir to a substantial fortune worth about $139M in today’s money, allowing him to devote his time to “scholarly pursuits” including Egyptology, genealogy and travel writing.

Samuel Colman was a Hudson River painter, interior designer, and writer.

Charles Stewart Smith made his money in the dry goods business and financing.

Louis Comfort Tiffany, Founder of Tiffany & Co, and leader of the Far East moment donated from his personal Japanese collection. Tiffany at his death was worth about $980M in today’s money.

Margaret Sage was heir to her robber-baron husband’s fortune, worth about $1.9B. She was a progressive woman who used her money to help fight for women’s rights and the public good.

Tiffany’s head silversmith at the time, Edward C. Moore, would also donate important pieces to the Met. Moore was the most successful silversmith Tiffany & Co. had utilizing a Moorish-style.

Yamanaka Sandajiro was an early dealer of Japanese art in America owing the firm Yamanaka & Co. There was no available picture for Yamanaka and used a picture of a baller cat.

Henry O. Havemeyer was a 3rd generation American sugar magnate and collected Impressionist paintings which he would donate to the Met. Havemeyer’s fortune at the time of his death he was worth about $1.3B in today’s money.


Covered Box, USA, designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1933), produced by Tiffany Studios (1902–32), ca. 1905–13, Wood; European walnut, glass, H. 2 5/8 in. (6.7 cm), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, 1951.

Katsushika Hokusai (Japanese, 1760–1849). Under the Wave off Kanagawa (Kanagawa oki nami ura), also known as the Great Wave, from the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjūrokkei), ca. 1830–32. Edo Period (1615–1868). Polychrome woodblock print; ink and color on paper; 10 1/8 x 14 15/16 in. (25.7 x 37.9 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, H.O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H.O. Havemeyer, 1929 (JP1847).


Sitting around wondering what to do? Why not get off that couch and away from the computer and join several live events at The Met.

Exhibition Tour—Discovering Japanese Art: American Collectors and the Met Saturday, March 7, 4:00–5:00 p.m. Free with Museum admission.

Conversation with an Educator—Su Shi (Dongpo) in a Straw Hat and Sandals, Asian Art Thursday, March 19, 11:00–11:30 a.m. Free with Museum admission.

Exhibition Tour—Discovering Japanese Art: American Collectors and the Met Friday, March 20, 6:30–7:30 p.m. Free with Museum admission.


Japanese robes, called Kimono, do not have pockets. To hold items, Netsuke was developed to act as toggles/counterweights to secure containers to a belt (obi).


Be inspired to collect Netsuke after you visit The Met exhibit, which features choice examples from the more than 2,500 Netsuke donated by collector Margaret Sage [1828-1918]. You can pick up examples from auctions for thirty dollars to a few hundred dollars each or get a one-of-a-kind mini-sculpture made for you by one of today’s artisans practicing the art of Netsuke. Here are a few of our favorite contemporary Netsuke artists working today from The International Netsuke Society (

Discovering Japanese Art: American Collectors and the Met
February 14 – September 27, 2015

About the author: Bill Indursky
Bill Indursky is an architect, trend expert, and digital entrepreneur. He is the former founder of V&M (Vintage & Modern (2006-2013)) and the current founder of Design Life Network (DLN). DLN is a MAGAZINE + DESIGN AGENCY + MARKETPLACE + TV CHANNEL promoting inspiring design of all eras online and on TV.

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