VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Nanban bureau
SMV Orb. 19
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

Nanban lacquerware is most often of lesser quality than lacquerware produced for the Japanese market. Because of the low prices Europeans were prepared to pay, these lacquerwares were produced in a cheaper and more simple way. This bureau gives no hint whatsoever to this faster production method, on the contrary, it is executed in a very careful manner, so that one can presume that this piece was made as a special present for a high-ranking collector or was ordered by a nobleman who was prepared to pay a high price. On the front a lacquer painting shows shojo, female nature spirits or sea maidens, which are dancing and drinking sake on a lonesome beach. At present only one other example of Nanban lacquerware with a depiction of this theme is known.

History of the Object
The bureau is a typical example of export art - for example pieces of furniture, but also objects of ecclesiastic use - produced in Japan at the end of the 16th and during the 17th century on the request of Portuguese and Spanish missionaries, travelers and traders. About 1580 the first examples of these types of work reached Europe, where they were highly sought after by collectors of noble descent for their cabinets of art and curiosities. The decoration of these Nanban lacquerwares were a mixture of Portuguese, Spanish and Japanese motifs with Chinese and Indian influence. Although these designs sometimes seem to be overloaded according to our taste, they are however exquisite examples of Japanese craftsmanship of that time. The bureau belonged to the collection of the Jesuit Father, Ferdinand Orban (1655-1732), was housed in the city of Ingolstadt since 1724 and which became the property of the university of that town after Father Orban's death. At the end of the 19th century it was transferred to Munich.

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Type
Decorative Art 
Materials
lacquer, mother-of-pearl, gilded copper 
Measurements
Width 35 cm Height 31,8 cm Length 44,5 cm  
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
Japan 
Geography
Japan 
Time period
AD 16th century ~ AD 17th century 
Creation date
about 1600 
Function
export art 
Acquisition
Transferred from the University of Ingolstadt to the Royal Ethnographic Collection in Munich in 1881. 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
State Property, Germany 
Museum
Five Continents Museum, Munich 
Credit line
State Museum of Ethnology, Munich, Germany 

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