Japanese lacquers, a collector once claimed, are "the most perfect and finest objects ever issued from the hand of man." Employing precious materials to fashion exquisitely detailed images, the makers of lacquer ware were concerned with aesthetic perfection in every phase of their art. The lacquers shown in this fully illustrated volume were selected for exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from the Charles A. Greenfield Collection, one of the largest and most significant private collections of Japanese lacquer art in the United States.
Each of these elegant lacquers was created both for use and for display. A sense of delight in design inheres in every type of object, from tiny jewel-like inrō (medicine containers worn with netsuke and de rigueur for fashionable dress), to writing boxes decorated with subtle poetic scenes and equipped with ingenious devices, to an elaborate set of utensils fashioned for the aristocratic pleasures of the incense ceremony.
Because the art of lacquer reflects Japanese culture so thoroughly in its designs, its fabrication, and its functional purposes, this volume details the role of lacquer ware in Japanese society with information not previously available in English. The author not only reveals the significance of lacquer decoration (both the lives of the characters and the lines of poetry that inspired artist and patron), but also he includes translations of historical documents by master lacquerers and aristocratic collectors. Presented herein is an overview of the fabric of Japanese life from 1600 to 1900 as it is preserved in the beauty of lacquer.
A complete catalogue of each object exhibited at The Metropolitan Museum of Art is included, as well as a glossary of technical terms, a bibliography, and an index.