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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–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)
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Dr. and Mrs. John P. Lyden
    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.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Export Portable Desk (Bargueño), late 16th–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 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 84.69.1_closed_PS6.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 84.69.1_closed_PS6.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2012
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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