A LACQUER CHEST FOR THE PORTUGUESE MARKET, MOMOYAMA PERIOD, LATE 16TH CENTURY
the rectangular chest with hinged, domed cover, with a panel depicting a monkey beside gourd vine decorated in gold hiramaki-e and inlaid in mother-of-pearl against a black ground, the front panel with birds in branches, all bordered by hanabishi and cut mother-of-pearl with finely engraved copper gilt fittings
46 cm., 18 in. long
- The chest has a light varnish overall, some old wear to the lacquer and small pieces of pearl missing. The lockplate hasp is lacking, some old restoration to edges.
- The interior is worn.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."
The Europeans began to arrive in Japan from the late 16th century for trade and Christian missions. To furnish the Christian churches in Japan and also for export, Japanese lacquer workers produced a variety of decorative lacquer chests, coffers, boxes and other furniture, as well as ceremonial religious objects. Namban lacquerwares are related to Kodaiji lacquer, a type of lacquerware made in Kyoto during the late Momoyama and early Edo periods, which is characterised by designs in gold hiramaki-e on a black ground. Western missionaries and merchants had opportunities to see Kodaiji lacquerwares and ordered the workshops to make the objects for them using the same design and techniques. Namban pieces, however, generally employ dazzling shell inlay, which is never found in Kodaiji works.
For more information on Namban lacquerware, see James C.Y. Watt and Barbara B. Ford, East Asian Lacquer: The Florence and Herbert Irving Collection, (New York, 1991), p. 169-173; and for Namban chests and coffers, see Oliver Impey and Christiaan J. A. Jörg, Japanese Export Lacquer 1580 – 1850, (Amsterdam, 2005), p. 147-158.
For a larger example in the Kyoto National Museum, go to: http://bunka.nii.ac.jp/SearchDetail.do?heritageId=97569#
For similar examples, see Fundação Oriente, Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Arte Namban: os portugueses no Japão, (Lisboa, 1990), p. 100. For more about lacquer caskets commissioned by Europeans, visit the British Museum website: http:/www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/asia/t/travelling_chest_kamaboko-bak.aspx