A fine Japanese export red lacquer box with Masonic symbols

Kyoto/Nagasaki, 1800-1820

Red lacquer decorated with scattered flowers and flying birds with long tails in gold, with the Masonic emblem designed in mother-of-pearl inlaid on a black lacquer ground, the lock-plate of silvered copper and with brass hinges.

W. 37.9 x D. 23.6 x H. 8.5 cm

The iconography inlaid in the centre of the lid relates to Masonic symbols specific to Scottish Rite. The Masonic design has been copied after the British ritual manual Jachin and Boaz (the two bronze pillars of Solomon’s Temple), published in 1797.

Many Dutch and English Company servants were members of Masonic Lodges in the East. In 1729 the first British Provincial Grand Lodge was established in Bengal, and soon two lodges followed in Batavia. Other British and Dutch lodges were established throughout British India and the Dutch East-Indies in the second half of the 18th and in the 19th century.

The dates suggest that the box may have been commissioned by James Lindsay 24th Earl of Crawford (1783-1869). Whilst it is not known whether he was a Mason, his father was Grand Master Mason of the Grand Lodge of Scotland from 1780-1782, and it can only be presumed James was a Mason as well. The symbols, in general, indicate a high-ranking in the Grand Lodge of Scotland and the box may have been a very precious gift to the Earl.


Provenance: The Earls of Crawford and Balcarres, Scotland

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