The visitor is welcomed into the central area on level 1 dedicated to Macau, a territory formerly under Portuguese administration. The large exhibition area is dominated by the four magnificent Chinese folding screens belonging to the collection. The oldest displays a Portuguese ship sailing the China Sea and flanked by another, essentially decorative in nature, bearing the coat of arms of the Gonçalves Zarco family. The third highly rare screen, displaying representations of the cities of Canton and Macau, is located next to the section dedicated to the iconography of the Cidade do Nome de Deus de Macau, with exhibits particularly focusing on the 17th and 18th centuries complemented by pieces from the 19th. One should still notice a writing desk, made on the second half of the 19th century, bearing a decoration representing the Praia Grande Bay, in Macau.
A granite statue, a crude depiction of a Dutchman, recalls the failed attempt to conquer Macau by Holland in 1622. This exhibition section also features a number of paintings and engravings from the period known as “China Trade” (18-19th centuries), both by Western and by Chinese artists.
A small set of designs and a charming painted miniature recall the extensive twenty seven year stay in Macau of the famous painter Georges Chinnery (1774-1852). This exponent of romantic Oriental landscapes left a sizeable legacy of urban, natural and human landscapes across the territory just as its final period of splendour as a key trading post between China and the West came to a close. On visits to Praia Grande or the sampans next to the A-Má Temple, the artist captured surprising instants of daily life dominated by the presence of the Chinese population going about their affairs against a backdrop influenced by a nostalgic European presence.
The role of Macau in international trade is extensively documented in the opposite section with highlights including the collection of porcelain bearing coats of arms laid out with the plates, dishes, terrines or jugs forming a dragon. Furthermore, there is a significant selection of examples of “China Trade” gouaches portraying the production and trade in tea and porcelain as well as Chinese fans so highly appreciated in the West.
Moving onto the eastern sector of level 1, leading onto the staircase, visitors encounter the following sections:
And among remote people was founded/ A new kingdom held in great exaltation in which, “guided” by the words of Camões in his epic The Lusiads in addition to those of Fernão Mendes Pinto in Pilgrimage and based on a carefully selected range of objects (furniture, textiles, gold jewellery, painting and ivory pieces), complemented by maps and scale models, the establishment and expansion of the Portuguese Empire in the Orient is set out. Centred around Goa, this section features cities and strongholds, the social and cultural interchange resulting from the dialogue and confrontation between cultures and religions. Within this scope, of particular importance are an 18th century treatise written by a Goan on Hindu gentiles along with a set of watercolours making up an album portraying the traditional characters, professions and military authorities in India.
Eastern Asia, which testifies to the Portuguese discovery of the culture of the Middle Empire and the lucrative trade in luxury products that came about while also incorporating the role of the missionaries that would accompany the traders and soldiers and who first founded the Christian Church in China, as well as those martyred for their faith. Here a Coromandel screen with interesting Christian iconography echoing the school of painting founded by the Jesuits in Japan and that later spread to Macau is worth of notice.
The profitable interchange with Japan throughout the 16th and 17th centuries is brilliantly encapsulated by two folding screens and the Namban lacquered pieces, among the most significant pieces in the entire collection.
This sector still comprises a set of white porcelain with underglaze blue decoration which bears witness of the first imports of commissioned pieces to the Portuguese market. A collection made up of mother-of-pearl devotional pieces and “remembrances”, of small and medium size, intended either for export or the local Christian community with crucifixes and fixed crosses is also in display. Finally a set of 19th century red and black lacquered pieces coming from Burma may also be appreciated.
With this section over, the visitor again returns to the central area of the Macau section and enters the western wing given over to the following:
East Timor, peoples and cultures, a very rich collection that documents, through pieces related either to the daily reality and the genealogic traditions or to the sacred, the unity and diversity of the cultures presented in addition to the close ties these peoples held and still hold with Portugal. The seed remover and the bench are located in the daily world of working instruments while the bracelets, necklaces, insignias of power or circumcision knives project us into the worlds of ceremony and ritual and developed through the various types of mask present. The various types of cloth woven by Timorese women illustrate the genealogical traditions within community while the decorative doors and panels of homes or votive statues takes us into the microcosm of Timorese homes with their succession of storeys — from ground level, home to animals and lesser spirits, up to the quarters of the living before rising to the area given over to the worship of ancestors.
Far Eastern Art Collecting contains a collection of terracotta and other antique Chinese, Japanese and Korean pieces acquired by the Fundação Oriente complemented by loans from Machado de Castro National Museum in Coimbra, enriched by the bequests of the poet Camilo Pessanha and the politician and writer Manuel Teixeira Gomes.
Given the extent of the Chinese ceramics collection, covering the most diverse period and techniques, the exhibition documents the typological evolution of funereal terracotta works, with examples dating back to the Neolithic period and running through to the Ming dynasty, as well as ceramics and porcelain both for practical daily purposes and pieces made for export.
The display further contains a small but significant set of bronzes in the majority deriving from the Camilo Pessanha Collection, some of them highly rare either due to their age or their artistic quality. A set of images, of various origins, and paintings in the Pessanha Collection provide a point of reference to the most erudite of Buddhist and Taoist artistic expression.
Thanks to the painting and costumes in the Pessanha Collection, it is possible to evoke the office and artistic tastes of a 19th century Chinese man of letters with all his “cherished items”, libation recipients, screens and folding screens, objects of devotion and the roles and albums of traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy in addition to their respective means of execution.
From the notable collection of Chinese snuff flasks built up by Manuel Teixeira Gomes, the second largest in Europe, there is a representative selection of existing different types. The same level is reached with the Japanese collection of the same type: inrô (small and portable personal containers), netzuke (to close the inrô and mask shaped mostly with depictions of the leading characters from Nô Theatre) and tsuba (sword hand guards), covering a broad chronological period and which in the case of Japan are complemented by three monumental sets of armour and other ceramics, bronzes, painting and furniture.
Concluding this section, there is a display of Korean pieces: a lacquered wooden box set with mother of pearl incrustations and an interesting set of watercolours from the late 19th century by the Korean artist Kim Jun-geun, known by his artistic name of Kisan, depicting the clothing, costumes and festivals of Korea and produced for European and American markets.