Nanban Chest with a Single Drawer
Momoyama period (1573–1615)
late 16th–early 17th century
Lacquered wood with gold hiramaki-e, mother-of-pearl inlay; gilt copper fittings
H. 9 5/8 in. (24.4 cm); W. 13 3/16 in. (33.5 cm); L. 19 7/16 in. (49.4 cm)
Purchase, Barbara and William Karatz Gift, 2008
The Portuguese, the main buyers of Japanese lacquer during the second half of the sixteenth century, wanted exotic versions of familiar furniture shapes that were saleable in Europe. At first most of the lacquer objects were decorated with mother-of-pearl inlays and sprinkled gold, a style which came to be associated in Japan with the “Southern Barbarians,” or Nanban. The word Nanban was also used for later foreigners, such as the Dutch. The foreigner’s strange outfits, pet dogs, and their trade ports were also recorded in the Nanban screens.The records of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) of Japanese lacquer ordered for the European market from 1602 include mention of kist (chests). The face of the front, sides, and lid are decorated in flat maki-e (“sprinkled picture”) and mother-of-pearl inlay. The face of the drawer is embellished with a bird-and-flower composition, surrounded by Nanban-foliage scrolls (karakusa).
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