Late 16th century
Wood lacquered in black and decorated in gold with mother-of-pearl inlays; gilded copper fittings
12.2 x 17.7 x 10.4 cm

A small Namban casket known as dogubako, in lacquered wood (urushi), featuring a hinged domed lid, square-shaped lock plate (aimeita), fiddlehead fern-shaped (warabi-te) top handle, and hinges at the back (chōtsugai). The gilded copper ornamental fittings (kazarikanagu) are finely chased with flower motifs on a punched "fish roe" (nanako) background pattern called nanakoji. The decoration consists of large panels, set with mother-of-pearl inlay (raden), covered with the well-known endless pearl pattern called shippōtsunagi, and lozenge-frieze borders with inlaid decoration. The interior and underside are decorated in plain black lacquer. The refined gold decoration applied to such caskets called maki-e, literally "sprinkled picture", was common in Momoyama (1568-1600) and early Edo Japan. During this period, a special lacquerware made for export, which mixed mother-of-pearl inlay with hiramaki-e, was called nanban makie or nanban shitsugeiNamban, or Nanban-jin (literally, "Southern Barbarian") is a Japanese term derived from Chinese that refers to the Portuguese and Spanish merchants, missionaries and sailors who arrived in Japan in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Namban has also become synonymous with the types of lacquerware and other products that were commissioned in Japan for the home market or for export and reflected Western taste and were modelled after European prototypes. Namban-style products, which were made strictly for export only, commonly combine Japanese techniques, materials and motifs with European styles and shapes. Small Namban caskets like the present example were apparently used for storing precious belongings such as jewellery and made to European specifications following the Portuguese demand for mother-of-pearl objects such as those made in Gujarat, India. A similar casket with matching inlay decoration belongs to the Nanban Bunkakan museum in Osaka, Japan.

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