An extremely fine and important Japanese lacquer cabinet with gilt-copper mounts for the European market
Edo period, late 17th century
The pictorial style decorated rectangular cabinet in black lacquer decorated in gold, silver, red and brown very fine taka-maki-e, with inlays in gold, silver, mother-of-pearl, and coral. The left door shows a tapering, high-relief taka-maki-e vase upon a tray with cloud-like patterns. Irises, peonies, and chrysanthemums in polished silver, are amongst the blooming flowers which draw admirers out of their thatched huts on the right-hand door. The doors open to reveal ten various sized drawers decorated in gold and red lacquer on a black ground, the interior of the drawers in nashiji.
W. 91 x D. 52 x H. 70.5 cm
Property of a Gentleman, the Netherlands
This cabinet belongs to the so-called ‘fine group’ of export lacquer created for the VOC or private traders during the height of Japanese lacquer’s popularity in Europe.
Although the exact meaning of the image remains unclear, it is evident that the arrangement of flowers is in the Rikka style of Ikebana. Rikka arrangements were originally intended as Buddhist offerings, which explains the reverse swastika displayed in the middle of the slender offering vase.
A pair of very similar cabinets, possibly by the same workshop, is in the collection of the Palazzo Reale in Torino, and another Japanese export cabinet showing strong compositional similarities is in Drayton House, Northamptonshire (Oliver Impey & Christiaan Jörg, Japanese Export Lacquer 1580-1850, Hotei Publishing 2005, p. 133).
Oliver Impey & Christiaan Jörg, Japanese Export Lacquer 1580-1850, Hotei Publishing 2005, p. 133 (ill.)