I recently received three Japanese lacquer bowls from my wonderful Auntie so lacquer is our topic today. For this post I am going to drink red moscato because after the pear infused sake incident I wanted a beverage I know I like. My glass is full so away we go!
Lacquer is a versatile, waterproof resin used on a variety of media. My favorite lacquered items are inro. Traditional men's kimono don't have pockets so they needed a convenient way to carry things like money.
Inro are worn over the obi sash around the waist. They were usually flask shaped with 2 to 5 compartments to separate the items.
Similar to handbags today inro became a way to show personality and social status. Inro is usually decorated with silver, gold and mother of pearl and varies from restrained to elaborate. Sometimes there is a literary or historical theme too.
Here are some beauties from the MFA Boston
Four-case inro with chrysanthemum design
Japanese Edo period mid-19th century
Barely visible black lacquer ground; decoration in gold, silver, aokin and red-tinted togidashi-e; compartments and risers gold nashiji; shoulders and rims gold fundame
8.7 x 5.2 x 1.9 cm (3 7/16 x 2 1/16 x 3/4 in.)
Accession Number 11.10070
Five-case inro with hanami design
Japanese, Edo period Late 18th–early 19th century, Yamada School
Black lacquer ground covered by medium-density gold nashiji; decoration in gold, aokin, silver and black takamaki-e compartments and risers gold nashiji; shoulders and rims gold fundame
8.4 x 5.6 x 2.2 cm (3 5/16 x 2 3/16 x 7/8 in.)
Accession Number 11.9946
Sheath inro with design of dragon and clouds
Japanese Edo periodLate 17th–early 18th centuryKoma School (Japanese)
Black lacquer with dense gold kinpun forming a gold ground; decoration in gold and silver takamaki-e with extensive gold kirikane and encrustation of ivory; inner part gold and aokin hiramaki-e; compartments and risers gold nashiji; shoulders and rims gold fundame
7.8 x 4.4 x 2.4 cm (3 1/16 x 1 3/4 x 15/16 in.)
Accession Number 11.9881a-b
Ogawa Haritsu (Japanese, 1663–1747) Two-case inro with design of toys
Japanese Edo period mid-late 18th century
Black lacquer ground; decoration in gold, black and red takamaki-e with encrustation of pottery; compartments and risers black lacquer; shoulders and rims gold fundame
6.3 x 5.8 x 2.2 cm (2 1/2 x 2 5/16 x 7/8 in.)
Accession Number 11.9918
This inro is my favorite of the bunch ... what the f is going on here? The description says the decorations are toys but I think those toys would give me nightmares!
Furniture, cosmetics boxes, trays and ornamental plaques are other popular lacquer items.
Check these out!
Lacquer shelves with design of flowers of the four seasons in maki-e
Japanese Meiji era about 1910
Wood, decorated in gold, silver and colored takamaki-e (high-relief), hiramaki-e (low-relief) and togidashi-e (flat-polished) lacquering
Overall: 63.5 x 80 x 36.8 cm (25 x 31 1/2 x 14 1/2 in.) 121.9 x 121.9 x 61 cm (48 x 48 x 24 in.)
Accession Number 2006.1177
Tray with decoration of the hundred monkeys
Japanese Meiji era second half of 19th century
Wood; maki-e lacquer decoration and ivory (Elephas maximus), tortoise shell (Eretmochelys imbricate), and mother of pearl (Pinctada radiata) inlay
Overall: 3 x 60.3 x 41.7 cm (1 3/16 x 23 3/4 x 16 7/16 in.)
Accession Number 11.5828
Lacquer Album Cover
Japanese Meiji era, red lacquer 27 x 36 x 5 cm (10 5/8 x 14 3/16 x 1 15/16 in.)
Sharf No.: FASREL6 Accession Number 2004.282.51
Lacquer was of course not limited to Japan. China, Korea, France and England are just a few other countries that produced beautiful lacquerware. Here are a few examples from the MFA Boston collection.
Cabinet on Stand
English about 1680–90
Cabinet: panels of late 17th-century Chinese lacquer; oak and spruce carcass; engraved gilt brass-mounts Stand: maple and pine, carved and gilt
Stand: 78.8 x 136.9 x 58.6 cm (31 x 53 7/8 x 23 1/16 in.) Cabinet : 91.4 x 112.2 x 47.8 cm (36 x 44 3/16 x 18 13/16 in.)
Accession Number 65.2528a-b
Folding fan "Mandarin" fan
Chinese for export Qing Dynasty 1850–60
Painted paper; ivory; silk; lacquer 28cm (11in.) Other (open maximum): 50cm (19 11/16in.)
Accession Number 1976.416
Twelve panel Coromandel lacquer screen
Chinese Qing dynasty, Kangxi period about 1700
Lacquer on wood 244 x 46 cm (96 1/16 x 18 1/8 in.); Legacy dimension: Ea. panel--H: 244.0 cm; W: 46.0 cm
This Korean lacquer box is a stunner! The delicate, rhythmic mother of pearl floral design is simply amazing.
Korean Lacquer box with inlaid mother-of-pearl and metal fittings
Joseon dynasty 17th–18th century
10.7 x 33.8 x 33.8 cm (4 3/16 x 13 5/16 x 13 5/16 in.)
Accession Number 19.652a-b
These pieces are all examples of surface decoration. Lacquer can also be put on in multiple layers with a design carved through the layers. Carved lacquer is unique to China and is usually very elaborate.
Lacquer libation cup
Chinese Ming dynasty 16th century
Lacquer and Silver H. 5 x W. 6.5 cm (1 15/16 x 2 9/16 in.), L. (over handle) 12 cm (4 3/4 in.)
Accession Number 1986.642
Lacquer Circular box
Chinese Qing dynasty, Qianlong period 1736–95
Height x diameter: 14.7 x 39.6 cm (5 13/16 x 15 9/16 in.)
Accession Number 41.267b-c
Chinese Qing dynasty 19th century
Papier-mâché, lacquered 27.9 x 45.1 x 37.5 cm (11 x 17 3/4 x 14 3/4 in.)
Accession Number RES.55.49.1
So that is a very brief exploration of lacquer and its many forms. I hope you appreciate the versatile, beautiful, functional medium of lacquer. A search of the Tokyo National Museum and MFA Boston will provide many fabulous pieces of lacquer. Cheers!