AN IMPORTANT JAPANESE LACQUER MAKI-É PANEL DEPICTING ST. PETERSBURG ON THE RIVER NEVA, WITH THE WINTER PALACE ON THE LEFT AND THE ACADEMY OF SCIENCE ON THE RIGHT

 

Nagasaki, 1780-1800

 

In black lacquer on copper, the front decorated in maki-é, the back inscribed, Vue Perspective des Bords de la Neva en descendant la Rivière entre le Palais d'hyver de sa Majesté Impériale et les batiments de l'Académie des Sciences à St Petersburg in gold and inlaid with flowers in mother-of-pearl.

 

H. 23 x W. 39 cm

 

The present plaque is identical to one in the Museum of Japanese History in Sakura and another one in the Museum of Peter the Great in St. Petersburg. (see: Oliver Impey & Christiaan Jörg, Japanese Export Lacquer, 1580-1850, p. 52-53)

 

This last one was given to Catherine the Great in 1794 by the Swedish medical doctor Johan Arnold Stutzer who had served with the VOC in Deshima in 1787-1788. Apparently, such plaques were not unique and may have been made in several copies. This was certainly the case with the smaller lacquer oval portrait medallions (see for instance Uit Verre Streken, June 2017, no. 62)

 

The scene of St. Petersburg was copied from an optical print taken by Stutzer to Japan, as shown by Yasumasa Oka of the Kobe City Museum. Stutzer in his diary writes: “I am the first to bring them (i.e. the Japanese) original pictures such as a view of St Petersburg and of Rudolf XV on horseback and try to have them made (in lacquer). According to the Japanese, it is the first time that these two pictures will be copied. Other products that I also ordered, for example, pictures of sea battles, are also appreciated as absolute masterpieces”.
 

For two lacquered plaques depicting the sea battle of Dogger Bank in 1781 between the Dutch and the English navies, see Uit Verre Streken, December 2013, nr. 39 and March 2015, nr 56. Johan Strutzer at the same time also presented six beautiful Japanese glass telescopes to Catherine the Great of Russia, like the two Japanese glass telescopes illustrated in Uit Verre Streken, March 2015, item 59 and 60 and the one in the Kobe City Museum (illustrated in: Japan Envisions the West, 16th-19th Century Japanese Art from the Kobe City Museum, plate 98).

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