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Export Portable Desk (Bargueño)

Asian Art

Catering to the demand for export lacquerware, the Japanese manufactured objects to Western specifications of both function and design. This lacquer cabinet is an example of a piece made in the namban style, for nambanjin, or foreigners—in this case the Portuguese. It displays a synthesis of indigenous Japanese elements of technical virtuosity together with forms adapted to the Western market and decorative motifs that are obviously non-Japanese in inspiration. When opened, it has drawers ranged around a recessed niche. The architectural motif appears to have been derived from the arch of a mihrab, the prayer niche of a mosque in the wall facing Mecca. A tree of life, painted in gold with pearl-shell inlay, meanders over the interior and exterior surfaces. These motifs can be traced to Gujarat, India, and were most likely transmitted eastward via the Portuguese trade.

MEDIUM Lacquer with gold flecks, mother-of-pearl inlay, metal fittings
  • Place Made: Japan
  • DATES Late 16th century to early 17th century
    PERIOD Momoyama Period
    DIMENSIONS 17 5/16 x 24 7/8 x 13 9/16 x 24 1/2 in. (44 x 63.2 x 34.5 x 62.2 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Asian Art
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    ACCESSION NUMBER 84.69.1
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Dr. and Mrs. John P. Lyden
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Export Portable Desk (Bargueño), Late 16th century to early 17th century. Lacquer with gold flecks, mother-of-pearl inlay, metal fittings, 17 5/16 x 24 7/8 x 13 9/16 x 24 1/2 in. (44 x 63.2 x 34.5 x 62.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. John P. Lyden, 84.69.1. Creative Commons-BY
    IMAGE overall, 84.69.1_closed_PS6.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2012
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Rectangular box with air on hinged doors on front and 4 tiers of drawers inside, 3 on top, 3 on bottom, 2 one above the other on either side flanking a vertical drawer in the center. Lacquer and mother-of-pearl in a black lacquer background with borders of gold-fleck lacquer. Design of folding fans and family crests on front, top, and sides, ivy on back, morning glory vines on inside of doors, flowering grasses on faces of drawers. Drawers lined with red lacquer.
    RECORD COMPLETENESS Best (89%)
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