Lacquer is the sap collected from the lacquer tree, a plant species native to Asia and known in Japanese as urushi no ki. It cures as a hard and inert substance, producing an extremely durable coating that protects objects made of wood and other materials against moisture. It can be colored by adding different agents, such as iron filings for black and the mineral cinnabar for red. Surfaces coated with lacquer can be carved with design patterns, incised and sprinkled with metallic powders and particles, or inlaid with mother-of-pearl and coral. As the decorative arts form most closely associated with the country of Japan, lacquer and lacquerware have historically been referred to as “japan.”
This exhibition presents a selection of Japanese lacquerware from the collection of Dr. Elizabeth E. Force, ranging from literary boxes to incense utensils, from inrō (carrying cases with small compartments) to household items. Made in the 18th and 19th centuries, these utilitarian objects are exquisitely crafted and decorated. They attest to the refined skills of lacquer artisans in Japan’s late Edo and early Meiji periods.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.