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Trieste City Museum of Oriental Art

When merchant ships were a bridge to the East.

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Where is

Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Via S. Sebastiano, 1, 34121 Trieste TS, Italia (10m s.l.m.)


What it is and where it is

The Civic Museum of Oriental Art is located in Palazzetto Leo, an 18th-century building in the center of Trieste. The building was donated to the municipality of Trieste in the 1950s by Countess Margherita Nugent and became a museum venue in 2001. A great many objects of oriental provenance are preserved here, gathered in a single collection from various private collections, left by prominent figures such as Carlo Zanella, a former agent of Austrian Lloyd in Hong Kong, and Anna Segre Sartorio, the last descendant of the noble Sartorio family.

Why it is special

It is a small oriental art museum that tells the naval and commercial history of the city of Trieste through the collection of objects from the Far East. Thus not just a classic art museum, but a historical and trade museum.

Not to be missed

If the Orient tickles your fancy, you will find bread for your teeth here: dozens of marvelous Japanese woodcuts, including an original copy of Katsushika Hokusai's Great Wave of Kanagawa; two splendid Japanese Samurai suits of armor; traditional Chinese clothing, including one that belonged to the Imperial family... And an archaeological collection from Karakorum and dating back to Ardito Desio 's famous K2 expedition , in which the fusion of Hellenistic characters and Oriental subjects hints at Alexander the Great's passage to the East.

A bit of history

In the second half of the 1800s Trieste, due to its maritime and commercial vocation, looked to the Levant: India, East Asia, China and Japan. Thus a taste for exotic collecting spread among the aristocratic elite and the emerging middle class of Trieste.


Also included in the collections are special woodcuts such as shunga, traditionally featuring explicit erotic scenes, and woodcuts depicting war scenes dating from World War II, part of the collection left to the City of Trieste by Diego de Henriquez, to whom an entire museum in the city is dedicated.

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Mario Andrea Francavilla

It is a small museum with a large collection, which speaks not only of the Orient and its arts, but especially of Trieste's naval and commercial history, which with the establishment of the Austrian Lloyd allowed the collection of chinoiseries of all kinds.


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