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A large pictorial-style Japanese export lacquer chest with brass mounts, Kyoto, 1640-1690



Kyoto, 1640-1690


Decorated in the pictorial-style, with silver and gold on a black ground, with gilt-brass fittings, lockplate, handles and hinges, with key.

H. 51.5 x W. 123 x D. 57 cm



Private collection, Paris



The earlier Namban-style chests dating from about 1600-1630 and ordered mainly by the Portuguese, usually had one or more drawers in the base and were decorated in gold and mother of pearl with animal, geometric and floral motifs within one or more cartouches. After the Portuguese were banned from Japan in 1639, the Dutch, based on the small artificial island Deshima in the bay of Nagasaki, were the only Europeans allowed to trade in Japan.

The style of the lacquer work ordered by the Dutch changed to a pictorial style of an overall decoration of landscapes without cartouches and without mother of pearl. The present chest is decorated with mountain and river landscapes, with pavilions and figures on land and in a boat on the water.

It is very closely related to the Japanische Lacktruhe, Kyoto(?) 1660-1690, in the Imperial Apartments of the Hofburg in Vienna. It is also closely related to the Drottningholm chest in the Royal collections Sweden, Stockholm (inv. HG-skåp 486, inventoried in 1707) and to a chest in the Amsterdam Historical Museum, Amsterdam (inv. KA 1693) given to Antonio Lopez Suasso by Stadholder William III on his departure to England in 1688.

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