Skušek’s Collection (SEM)

  Slovene Ethnographic Museum

The collection of Ivan Skušek Jr. is the largest collection of Chinese objects in Slovenia, put together by the naval officer Ivan Skušek Jr. (1877–1947) during his almost six-year stay in Beijing (1914–1920). The extensive collection comprises around 500 objects of various types. In addition to paintings, Buddhist statues, ceramics, porcelain, textiles, musical instruments, coins, books, photographs, albums and many other small everyday items, it also includes large objects, such as ceramic rooftop riders, furniture, decorative screens and a Chinese house model. The objects mostly originate from the Qing dynasty (1644–1911) and the Republican period (1912–1949).

Ivan Skušek Jr. boarded the Austro-Hungarian Cruiser S. M. S. Kaiserin Elisabeth as intendant and sailed to East Asia in 1913. In the complex political circumstances which eventually led to the outbreak of World War I and Japan’s declaration of war on Germany and Austria, the cruiser docked in the port of Qingdao on the Shandong Peninsula in August 1914. The crew was ordered to join German forces and help them protect the German concession from military attacks by the Japanese and the British. The victorious Japanese took most of the captured soldiers to Japanese camps, while some sailors and officers were captured by the Chinese and taken to Beijing. Ivan Skušek was among the latter.

Skušek retained his position as chief intendant even during his confinement in the diplomatic quarter of Beijing. He was issued a permit which allowed him to leave the confinement camp and move around Beijing freely. Wandering the city streets, he visited various antique shops, admired the antiquities and grew enthusiastic about East Asian culture. He even met and married a young Japanese woman, Tsuneko Kondō Kawase (1893–1963), who later changed her name to Marija Skušek. In 1920, he returned to Ljubljana along with her, her two children from her previous marriage, and two railway carriages full of Chinese antiquities. He intended to build and open a museum of Chinese culture in his homeland, but lacked funds to ever realise the plan. He kept the objects in his apartment, often visited by the architect Jože Plečnik who is known to have drawn inspiration from Skušek’s collection. Since Skušek wanted to preserve his collection as a whole, he bequeathed it to the state. In 1963, it became the property of the Slovene Ethnographic Museum.

Objects in this collection

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