VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Water Pitcher
RMV 360-675
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

The extreme simplicity of this pitcher, with, as seen above, hardly any specific treatment nor any adornment, results in something which even today strikes us as a perfect design. Seemingly not misplaced in some exhibition of contemporary Scandinavian design, yet, it dates back from the early decades of the nineteenth century. Prof. Matthi Forrer, curator Japanese arts, Leiden.

History of the Object
It is, I would say, that even today, impossible to improve on this red-lacquered water pitcher. The manufacturing and execution are built on a tradition of several centuries: the basic shape consists in a plywood structure to which a wooden handle and spout are attached. This construction is then covered with many layers of lacquer, made from the sap of the lacquer tree, the Rhus vernicifera. Adding green vitriol or acetous ferric oxide to the purified lacquer produces the common black, applied to the inside of the pitcher. The red lacquer used on the outside derives from adding cinnabar or, more likely in this case, colcothar, benigara. In both the black and the red, the lustre of it depends on the quality of the purified raw lacquer.

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Type
Decorative Art 
Materials
Wood; lacquerwork 
Measurements
D 11.5 cm 
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
Japan 
Geography
Japan 
Time period
AD 18th century ~ AD 18th century 
Creation date
18th Century 
Function
Water Pitcher 
Acquisition
Ex Collection Royal Cabinet of Rarities, The Hague. Acquired by the National Museum of Ethnology in 1883. 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
State property, the Netherlands 
Museum
National Museum of Ethnology, Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde 
Credit line
National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden, the Netherlands 

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