A COLLECTION OF JAPANESE LACQUER PORTRAIT MEDALLIONS DEPICTING FAMOUS EUROPEANS
Edo period, late 18th century
Copper covered in black lacquer and decorated in gold “Hiramaki-é” in low relief.
H. approx. 12.2 x W. approx 9.2 cm
A vogue for collecting portrait medallions of famous historical figures developed. in the late eighteenth century. In England, in the 1770s Josiah Wedgwood exploited this with the production of ceramic medallions in both blue jasper and black basalt. Possibly in response to this fashion portrait medallions in black and gold lacquer on copper were produced in Japan from around 1780. Many of these portraits were copied from engravings of famous people of the early Middle Ages to the middle of the 18th century published in L’Europe Illustré, a six-volume work compiled by Dreux du Radier and published in Paris between 1755 and 1765. Besides the name of the famous person written in Roman capitals around the rim of the plaque, the caption to the original engraving is transcribed by the Japanese artisan on the reverse, sometimes resulting in illegible French.
The Rijksmuseum has a collection of 19 portrait medallions, all acquired in 1829 as part of the gift of the “Rariteiten Kabinet” (Cabinet of Curiosities) of King William I.
Amongst others we have:
1. Conrad III, inscribed at the back: Commence à regner le 1er Avril 1139. Mort le 15. Fevrier1152. Conrad III (1093 - 1152) was the first king of Germany of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, styled himself as “King of the Romans” and joined the Second Crusade in 1146.
2. Anne-Marie Louise d’Orleans, inscribed on the back: Duchesse de Montpensier, Neé 29 mai, 1627. Morte à Paris le 5, avril 1693. Anne Marie Louise d’Orleans (1627 - 1693) was known as “La Grande Mademoiselle”.
3. Henri de Lorraine. Inscribed at the back: Duc de Guise, dit le Balafré. Né le 31 décemb. 1550, Tué à Blois le 3 octobre 1588. Henri de Lorraine became the acknowledged chief of the catholic party during the French Wars of Religion and favourite of Maria de Medici. When he became to popular with the population of Paris, King Henri III had him murdered.
4. Frederic II, inscribed at the back: Roi de Prusse et Electeur de Brandenburg. Frederic II is better known as Frederic the Great because of his achievements during his reign over Prussia,
including many military victories and his patronage of the Arts and Enlightenment in Prussia.
5. Leonora Galigaï, inscribed at the back: Femme du Maréchal d’Ancre, Neé à Florence, Décapitée à Paris le 4 Juillet 1617. Leonora Galigaï (Florence 1571 - 1617) was charged with witchcraft and beheaded in Paris in 1617.
6. Romulus Augustulus, inscribed at the back: AUGUSTULUS, Orestis Patricis filius Imperavit mens. IV. di. XXIV. Sedente Simplicio, expulsus, an. Chr. CDLXXVI. (Augustulus, son of Orestis, ruled four months and twenty four days, was disposed by Pope Simplicius in the year 476). Romulus Augustulus (circa 461- after 476) was the last emperor of the West Roman Empire.
7. Ferdinand II, inscribed at the back: Commence à regner le 28 Aout 1619 mort le 15 Fevrier 1637.
8. Louis IV ou V, inscribed at the back: Commence a regner le 18 Octobre 1314 mort le 11 Octobre 1347.
9. Frederic III, inscribed at the back: Couronné Empereur à Bonn en 1314.
10. Oliver Cromwell, inscribed at the back: né en 1603 mort a Londres le 13 Septembre 1668.
11. Marie Francois Arrouet, inscribed at the back: De Voltaire Né à Paris en 1694.
12. Maarten Harpertz Tromp, inscribed at the back: Admiral de Hollande tué dans une betaille Navale contre les Anglais le 10 Août 1653. (sold)