Namban lacquerwares were mainly decorated in gold hiramaki-e and shell inlay as in this present lot. Mother-of-pearl was used to reflect candlelight in dark interiors. Their design is related to Kodaiji lacquer, a style of lacquerware made in Kyoto during the late Momoyama and early Edo periods, which is characterised by designs of flowers and plants in gold hiramaki-e on a roironuri, or black ground.
This magnificent cabinet is part of an early group of Namban lacquer that arrived in Europe around 1600. Oliver Impey, Japanese Keeper at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, identified these as the chests without fall fronts as exemplified by the Ambras Cabinet inventoried in 1607. See Oliver Impey and Christiaan J. A. Jörg, Japanese Export lacquer 1580-1850 (Amsterdam, 2005) p.122, a further example in the Ashmolean Museum is illustrated pl.226 p.123.
For further information on lacquer caskets commissioned by Europeans, visit the British Museum website:
For further reading on Nanban lacquerware, see James C. Y. Watt and Barbara B. Ford, East Asian Lacquer: The Florence and Herbert Living Collection, (New York, 1991), pl. 169-173; and for the Nanban chests and coffers; Oliver Impey and Christian Jörg, Japanese Export lacquer 1580-1850 (Amsterdam, 2005), pp.147-158; and Teresa Canepa, The Trade of Japanese Lacquer to Europe and the New World in the Late 16th and Early 17th Centuries, Proceedings of the Japan Society, number 154, 2017, p.52
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