A Japanese Namban black, gold and silver lacquered and mother-of-pearl inlaid Coffer
Japanese Namban lacquerware
Japanese lacquer, an already highly-prized commodity in the first half of the 17th century, became even more of a matériau de luxe when Japan’s relations with the rest of the word were severed in 1639, the country preserving only very limited trade relations with China and the Netherlands through the port of Nagasaki. Due to such restrictions, lacquer became almost exclusive to the trade of the marchands-merciers who paid dearly for such lacquer panels and which they in turn used to adorn the most precious objets d’art. Such objets en lacquer were very much favored by the European noble families and famed patrons such as Madame de Pompadour, who owned a large quantity of lacquer boxes and caskets commissioned by the marchand-mercier Lazare Duvaux.
This chest is a characteristic example of Japanese Namban lacquerware with its several coatings of black lacquer (hiramaki – e) forming a smooth ground for the poly-lobed reserves depicting butterflies and exotic birds inlaid with mother-of-pearl (takamaki – e) and framed by a silvered nashiji ground, creating an interesting contrast in colour.
Comparable pieces are in the Royal Collection Stockholm and the Tokyo National Museum.