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18 July 2015 - 28 January 2015, Heleneum, Lugano

Gentô-ban. Nineteenth century's Japan in glass lantern slides. Perino Collection.

Displayed in the ground floor of the Heleneum, the exhibition is based on a selection of more than a hundred pieces from the Perino Collection. They are magic lantern glass slides, albumen photographs and color-lithographs collected by Claudio Perino, a doctor and a collector about Japanese art since more than two decades. 

Foto gallery

An extraordinary collection

These images bring visitors into the magic atmosphere of Japan at the end of Nineteenth century. The largest part of them are part of the so called Yokohama School, a topic which the Museo delle Culture is deeply interested in, since it is storing one of the largest collection in the world of albumen photographs (Ceschin Pilone/ Fagioli Collection)  and promoting internationally exhibitions and conferences about. The exhibition shows the leading role of these images into the Western construction of imaginaries about Japan. This happened after the Meiji period (1868-1912), when finally Japan opened the boarders to foreign people. Meiji period was a very chaotic period, nevertheless the growing modernization of the country and the linked contradictions inside that brought Japan to be what it actually is. Mutual curiosities and reciprocal exotic visions between Japan and the West are shown in the subjects of Yokohama School: geisha and samurai, sumo wrestlers and kendôka, but also Westerns in rickshaw, Ainus with long beards, and gas lanterns along the streets in Japanese towns.

Exotic dimension of these images is amplified by a peculiar device that in that age was very common: delicate glass slides called in Japanese gentô-ban (燈板), which literally means “illusions of light”. Based on photographic or stereoscopic negatives reproduced on the glass slide, these were later hand-colored by native painters, as well as the albumen photographs. Glass lantern slides were projected on a screen by a magic lantern, a projector used before the advent of the cinematographic devices. In one of the Heleneum’s room, visitors can live the experience of the magic lantern, exactly as when the glass slides where projected on a wall in a dark room. This was a collective pre-cinematographic experience that helped people in dreaming about a fancy and exotic world as Japan was perceived by Westerns. In the other rooms, original glass slides are shown in special windows with backlit bottoms. They are paired with same-subjects albumen photographs and color-lithographs, personally selected by the collector.

The exhibition "Gentô-ban. Nineteenth century's Japan in glass lantern slides. The Perino Collection" has been entirely produced by the Museo delle Culture and is supplied by a catalogue edited by Moira Luraschi.

Bilateral relations

The exhibition is part of the celebrations for the 150° anniversary of diplomatic relations between Switzerland and Japan (

Gentô-ban. Il Giappone dell'Ottocento nelle diapositive della Collezione Perino

A cura di Moira Luraschi
Silvana Editoriale, Cinisello Balsamo 2014
Antropunti 6, sezione Guide, p. 127
Chf 24.-
ISBN 978-88-3662-930-5