VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Coffer with maki-e and mother of pearl inlay
NMHC_Dho0002
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

Born from the cultural exchanges with Portugal, this coffer is certainly qualified as a masterpiece of Japan from before the Sakoku (seclusion) period. Kenji KUBO and Ryuji HIRAOKA, curator, Nagasaki.

History of the Object
Trees of Japanese lacquer don’t thrive well in Europe but are indigenous in Japan as well as other Asian countries. After the Age of Discoveries, gorgeous and decorated lacquer wares were at a premium in Europe and many objects were exported to other countries. This coffer, rectangular form with a humpbacked lid, was made in Japan at the request of the Portuguese. It is decorated with golden and silver maki-e as well as mother of pearl inlay over the black lacquered ground. It also has window frames constituted by “Hanabishi” (floral diamond) and “Shippo-tsunagi” (interlocking circles) patterns which are filled up with a flower tree pattern. Maki-e is an original and traditional technique of Japan, but this coffer’s design is Portuguese taste, thus it should be called a semi-Western style. Missionaries who played active roles in ‘the Christian century’ Japan (1549-1650) generally used coffers of this type as tool boxes for religious things.

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Type
Decorative Art 
Materials
lacquerware 
Measurements
39.6 cm × 21.7 cm × 29.0㎝ 
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
Japan 
Geography
Japan 
Time period
AD 16th century ~ AD 17th century 
Creation date
16th Century - 17th Century (early) 
Function
 
Acquisition
It was once in the collection of Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum. Since 2005, it has been preserved in Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture. 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan 
Museum
Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture 
Credit line
Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture, Nagasaki, Japan 

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