top of page

A Japanese export Nagasaki lacquer tobacco box with the portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte
Edo-period, circa 1810

The box in black lacquer on copper, the lid decorated with a portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte in gold hiramaki-e and nashiji. It has mother-of-pearl inlaid flowers in the four corners inside a similar inlaid border. The sides of the box are likewise decorated with gold lacquer flowers.


H. 2.4 x W. 15.2 x D. 11.3 cm

Who could have ordered this box? The most likely candidate seems to be Herman Willem Daendels (1762-1818). A revolutionary who sided with the Dutch Patriots in 1785, fighting the Orange Stadtholder William V. After the Prussian army came in to support William V, Daendels fled to France because of a death sentence, where he closely witnessed the French Revolution. He returned to the Netherlands in 1794 as a general in the French army under general Pichegru and as commander of the Batavian Legion. In 1806 Napoleon sent his brother Louis Napoleon to rule the kingdom of Holland as a monarch. In 1807 Daendels was appointed as Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies, where he arrived in 1808. There, Daendels did everything he could to prevent the English from occupying the colony. After Napoleon had dismissed his brother as King of Holland in 1810 and incorporated the Netherlands into France, Daendels returned to Holland and moved to Paris where Napoleon appointed him in 1811 as Divisional General and Commander of the 26th Division of the Grande Armée. Daendels joined Napoleon on his campaign to Moscow and fought in many battles including the Battle of Berezina. After the fall of Napoleon I, King William I of the Netherlands banned Daendels by appointing him Governor-General of the Dutch Gold Coast (present-day Ghana) where he died of malaria in 1818.

In 1809, when Daendels was Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies, two Dutch ships, the Rebecca and De Goede Trouw sailed from Batavia to Deshima. The Rebecca, with Hendrik Tilenius Kruithoff, the intended successor of Opperhoofd Doeff in Japan, was taken by the English navy. De Goede Trouw, with the Royalist Blomhoff aboard, therefore was the only and last Dutch ship to reach Deshima until 1817. If Daendels indeed ordered this box than it must have been ordered and collected for him in Deshima by the captain or an officer aboard De Goede Trouw.

bottom of page