Nanban Cabinet with Drawers


Not on view

In the second half of the sixteenth century, Japanese lacquer made for Western markets was known as Nanban (Southern Barbarian) lacquer, a reference to the epithet given to foreigners from Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands. Many of these export lacquers were made in Kyoto. Six-drawer cabinets of this type, listed in European collections as secrétaires or comptoiren, would generally have had a fall-front door. One of the earliest examples of an export cabinet without a fall front was inventoried at Schloss Ambras in Austria, around 1607. The drawer fronts of this sumptuous, small, and richly embellished cabinet are densely decorated with autumn flowers and shells, while geometric patterns, floral designs, and repeated intersecting-circle motifs (shippo) embellish the dividers. The top and sides display complex compositions inspired by Japanese literary classics. The unusual size and iconography of the cabinet indicate that it could have been a special order.

Nanban Cabinet with Drawers, Lacquered wood with gold and silver hiramaki-e, takamaki-e, gold foil application, and mother-of-pearl inlays on black ground; gilt-bronze fittings, Japan

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