Travelling chest (kamaboko-bako)

From Japan
Edo period, early 17th century AD

Makie and shell inlay

From the Momoyama period (1568-1600) there were several innovations in the techniques and styles of lacquer. More ornate styles of decoration evolved as a result of the increase in orders from Europeans. At first some of these were from Spanish and Portuguese missionaries within Japan for objects to be used in church. After Catholicism was banned in Japan in 1614 the export trade to Europe was continued by the Dutch East India Company.

This chest was almost certainly made for export. It is known as a kamaboko-bako because it is in the form of a Japanese fish sausage or kamaboko. The dense decoration of flowers and oranges separated by bands of chrysanthemum flowers and geometric shell inlay is typical of namban ('Southern barbarian') taste. It includes elements of Japanese, Chinese and even Indian design.

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More information


L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)


Length: 22.300 cm

Museum number

Asia JA 1956.2-15.1


Gift of Denys F. Bower


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