A JAPANESE LACQUERED TOBACCO BOX WITH MASONIC REGALIA BY LACQUER-WORKER BUEMON
Nagasaki, dated 1825
Black lacquer on copper, decorated with Masonic Regalia in mother of pearl, the inside the lid inscribed “Souvenir du Capt. Mesdagh a Son Ami L. Margeritte, Japon 26"
L. 14 x W. 8.7 x H. 2.6 cm
Lacquer worker Buemon is well known for the use of mother of pearl in his lacquer work. He is frequently mentioned in summaries of the private lacquer trade by von Siebold in the years 1823- 1829 and of other orders for lacquer work by the Dutch on Deshima
between 1820 and 1830. There is a painting by Kawahara Keiga (1786-after 1859), illustrated in Deshimazu plate 21 (Collectie Algemeen Rijksarchief), of the bay of Nagasaki and Deshima in the foreground with a caption “Baay en Stad van Nagasahky, met de Neederlandsche Scheepen Vasco de Gama en Johanna Elisabeth, onder bevel van de Kapiteins Bezemer en Mesdagh, Augustus 1825”. Captain M. Mesdagh sailed on the 9th of January 1825 from Antwerp, then part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, with the frigate Johanna Elisabeth with troops for Batavia. There his ship was chartered by the Government in Batavia on the 2nd of July to bring passengers to Deshima. Among them Dr. Heinrich Bürger (1804-1854) who was specialized in physics, chemistry and mineralogy and a pharmacist by profession, and the clerk and professional draughtsman Carel Hubert de Villeneuve (1800-1874). Philipp Franz von Siebold the famous physician and scientist on Deshima from 1823 till 1829 had asked for a pharmacist/physician, a clerk and a draughtsman to help him with his scientific work. For von Siebold’s scientific work also Kawahara Keiga was extremely important. He made the true-to-nature drawings of the Japanese flora, fauna, landscape, people, implements, architecture and of the court journey to Edo made by von Siebold and Bürger in 1826. The finer tricks of the European ways of painting Keiga learned from de Villeneuve. Against the will of the Japanese authorities, de Villeneuve’s wife Mimi arrived on Deshima in 1829. She was forced to take the next boat back to Batavia but in the meantime she was a rewarding subject for Japanese printmakers.
Who captain Mesdagh’s friend L. Margeritte was we don’t know except that it is likely that he was a member of a Masonic Lodge as were many of the higher VOC and Dutch colonial officials in the East. However, Margeritte could just as well have been a friend of Mesdagh in his home town of Antwerp. This was the only trip captain Mesdagh ever made to Japan.
We are grateful to Matthi Forrer for his assistance with this entry.