A magnificent Nanban cabinet Momoyama period (1573-1615) late 16th/early 17th century (4)

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Lot 66*
A magnificent Nanban cabinet
Momoyama period (1573-1615) late 16th/early 17th century

Sold for £ 125,062 (US$ 155,430) inc. premium
A magnificent Nanban cabinet
Momoyama period (1573-1615) late 16th/early 17th century
Embellished predominantly in gold hiramaki-e lacquer and inlaid with shell, the single hinged door decorated on the front with cloud-shaped cartouche enclosing a tiger and leopard prowling on the rocky banks of a river among flowering plants of kikyo (Chinese bellflowers), tachibana (mandarin orange), maple and hagi (bush clover) surrounded by symmetrical mitsu domoe (three-comma motifs) on a ground of tightly-clustered shells, and on the back with a crane and minogame (turtle with a 'tail' of weed) among scrolling asagao (morning glory), the top with a pair of cranes flying above two minogame on the banks of a river flanked by arching branches of maple and kikyo reserved on the same patterned-ground as the door, the left side with a long-tailed cockerel in a garden, flowering maple and kikyo, the right with a long-tailed cockerel among tachibana and kiri (paulownia), the reverse with meandering branches of kuzu (kudzu vine), some of the leaves inlaid in shell, all framed by narrow bands of shell, square latticework, thin zigzag bands and shippo-tsunagi (linked-cash), the door opening downwards to reveal 19 drawers of three sizes arranged horizontally in six rows surrounding a central drawer with an arch in relief decorated with a standing ho-o (phoenix) surrounded by a chequered design and a copper lock plate, 18 drawers decorated with rectangular panels alternately enclosing asagao, tachibana and kuzu, each drawer with a copper gilt chrysanthemum knob, the sides with two copper-gilt carrying handles, the underside of plain wood; with a custom-made wood storage box and two keys. 64.5cm x 89cm x 52.5cm (25 3/8in x 35 1/16in x 20 11/16in). (4).

Footnotes

  • Crafted in Kyoto's lacquer workshops alongside quite different wares intended for elite Japanese clients, coffers and cabinets decorated in gold hiramaki-e and shell were among the earliest Japanese artefacts to reach Asian and European markets, starting two or three decades after the first landfall by Portuguese adventurers in the mid-sixteenth century. Celebrated today for their lavish, innovative technique and dense ornamentation inspired in part by wares from other parts of Asia, such pieces brought the Japanese genius for design to global attention and ensured that the word 'Japan' would be synonymous with 'lacquer' down to the present day.

    Traded along newly opened global sea routes, Japanese lacquers offered Asian and European monarchs alike a distant glimpse of the splendours of the Momoyama age, when great warlords like Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537–1598) took overall control of the country. Hideyoshi and his rivals, vassals and successors ordered lavish use of gold—not just on lacquer wares but on folding screens and wall-painting ensembles as well—to brighten the brooding interior spaces of their magnificent palaces and castles.

    The decoration of this outstanding cabinet, with lively animal, bird and flower designs placed within rich floral and geometric ornament, points to a date during the closing years of the sixteenth century or the opening decades of the seventeenth, when such wares partially reflected contemporary pictorial trends within Japan, particularly the dramatic treatment of the tiger and leopard, which echo contemporary masterpieces by Eitoku and other leaders of the Kano painting academy.

    For a discussion on fall-front cabinets of this type, along with comparative examples, see Oliver Impey and Christian Jörg, Japanese Export Lacquer 1580-1850, Amsterdam, Hotei Publishing, 2005, pp.122-124.
Contacts
A magnificent Nanban cabinet Momoyama period (1573-1615) late 16th/early 17th century (4)
A magnificent Nanban cabinet Momoyama period (1573-1615) late 16th/early 17th century (4)
A magnificent Nanban cabinet Momoyama period (1573-1615) late 16th/early 17th century (4)
A magnificent Nanban cabinet Momoyama period (1573-1615) late 16th/early 17th century (4)
A magnificent Nanban cabinet Momoyama period (1573-1615) late 16th/early 17th century (4)
A magnificent Nanban cabinet Momoyama period (1573-1615) late 16th/early 17th century (4)
A magnificent Nanban cabinet Momoyama period (1573-1615) late 16th/early 17th century (4)
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