Inventory no.: 1910

Japanese Export Lacquer Cabinet, 17th century


Pictorial Style Lacquered & Gilded Cabinet

Japan for the European Market


height: 41cm, width: 43.5cm, depth: 27cm

This is a fine example of a late seventeenth century cabinet made in Japan for the European market at the behest of the Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC), otherwise known as the Dutch East India Company. It is of typical form, known as a comptoire. Such cabinets were of black lacquer with gold decoration and in accordance with emerging European tastes, were without mother-of-pearl inlay, and contrast with the coffers and table-top chests that were inlaid with mother-of-pearl and made for the Portuguese markets several decades earlier. The chests such as the example usually were trans-shipped to Holland from Japan via Batavia in the Dutch East Indies.

The cabinet is of rectangular form and decorated on all sides in gold lacquer with landscapes, floral motifs, birds and scenes of village life. As such it is a good example of the so-called ‘Pictorial’ style.

The corners, hinges and key plate all comprise gilded copper sheets cut with scalloped edges and engraved with flowers and foliage.

The cabinet’s two doors open to reveal nine variously-sized draws each with their original gilded copper drawer pulls. The insides of the doors are decorated in gilt with traditional scenes as are each of the drawers.

A very similar cabinet of similar proportions and with similar lacquer decoration was recorded in the 1737 inventory of the Royal Kunstkammer in Slotsholmen, Copenhagen, which was the private museum of the Danish kings. See Gundestrap (Volume II, 1991, p. 98) for an illustration of this cabinet, which is attributed to seventeenth century Japan (inventory no.: EAc114). Other similar examples are illustrated in Impey & Jorg (2005).

The cabinet here is in its original state. There has been no recent repair work or restoration. There are losses to the lacquer-work here and there, some warping and so on. All the drawers are complete and present. All fit well inside their compartments. They are constructed with simple


Gundestrap, B., The Royal Danish Kunstkammer 1737, Nationalmuseet, 1991.

Impey, O., & C. Jorg,

Japanese Export Lacquer 1580-1850, Hotei Publishing, 2005.

de Kesel, W., & G. Dhont,

Flemish 17th Century Lacquer Cabinets, Stichting Kunstboek, 2012.


UK art market

Inventory no.: 1910