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Rectangular Nanban cabinet

consolidated on a wooden structure, decorated in lacquer and inlaid with mother of pearl on all of its sides. 

It opens on the front by 19 drawers of different measures and on six rows.  Each drawer is ornament, in its center, with lacquer inlaid with shagreen in a frame of gilded filets and of mother of pearl tablets.  The mouldings on the outer frame are enlivened with gilded interlacings. The structure that holds the drawers is decorated with friezes with foliage inlaid with mother of pearl and raised in gold.  The central drawer, provided with a keyhole, adopts an architectural façade.  The central arc rests on two quarters of columns dressed with a fanlight ending by a degree baseboard.  The sides are centered by a fan.  Two registers depict, on a black background, plants and a couple of oxen – on one side – and a fish and a couple of hares on the other.

These panels, as the one on the front, are framed by geometrical friezes inlaid with mother of pearl tablets and Golden florets.  This chest is furnished with two moveable handles in painted iron, and on each of its four corners one can appreciate embellishments in chiseled brass. 

Japan, Monoyama period (1573-1603); 16th– 17th centuries.


Height: 25.3 inches.  Length: 35.2 inches.  Depth: 20.8 inches.


The collection of René Clément, moviemaker (1913-1996), Monaco.

The Portuguese and the Spaniards discovered the very sought after Japanese market of Xipangu in the 16th century. It is effectively there that the most impressive lacquer in the world was produced.  The Japanese, at that momento in the midst of a civil war, called these Europeans Nanban, which means“Barbarians from the South”, and so they called with the same name these export works in lacquer that they cherished.  If this chest is derived into an Iberian bargueño, the technique for the insertion of mother of pearl on the whole surface is brought from Gujarat in India; the “peau-de-raie” technique comes from Siam and the metal work has been imagined in Europe.  It is the Japanese who contribute with the ancestral technique of lacquer.  The final clients are found all over the world: the Chinese Emperor, the Mongolic Court, the European aristocracy or the very rich Conquistadores of the New World.  It is, thus, the first testimony of the globalization of the Luxury Industry.  Our cabinet can find similarities with some pieces reproduced in Japanese Export Lacquer, 1580-1850, O. Impey and C. Jorg, Hotei Publishing, Amsterdam, 2005, pages 122-128.



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