The eye of the collector by Jean-luc Ferrand


Monday 7 March 2016, by Barbara Cogollos

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]


The coming to power of the Emperor Mutsuhito, better known as Meiji, marks a watershed in Japanese history. The seizure of power by Meiji in 1868, is synonymous with modernization for the country. His first action is to spread the Charter of five articles; this charter leading to the abolition of feudalism and proclaimed a modern democratic government by restoring the imperial system. The country finally opens the world after the riots, famine and 250 years of autarky. The country’s economy grows and artistic events multiply. It was at this time that the Japanese furniture finally win its letters of nobility and becomes a decorative object.
This prosperous period allows the wealthier Japanese to acquire these refined decorative and these high quality furniture.

During the Meiji era, crafts develops two distinct artistic styles: Yooga (influenced by Western art) and Nihonga (influenced by the traditional arts). This office belongs to the second style. This type of furniture is called "Shodana" that means "lacquered cabinet" in Japanese.
The shodhana is a lacquered furniture of pageantry, we like show and is used as a library or to store precious kimono: it is both decorative and functional. This splendid Shodana presented to us is a technical and aesthetic sublimation. This is likely a furniture created for indoor belonging to a person of high social status: a special order for a member of the court may be ... or a special creation that were sent to the West. This type of design was the showcase of the country, it should reflect all its expertise and was presented at prestigious events such as Universal Exhibitions. This Shodana is undoubtedly a historic testimony of refinement and the high quality of Japanese artistic production at that time.

Commonly, Japanese furniture is asymmetrical and consist of many storage as here drawers, shelves, sliding doors or hinged.
Shodhana brings together a wide range of lacquer techniques, whether roiro-urishi (lacquered black background), fun lady (golden background) of hiramaki-e (drawings with powder gold), Takamaki-e (embossed designs with gold dust), and of harigari tsukegaki (drawing lines etched or embossed) or nashi-ji (bronze and mica glitter that are sprinkled on lacquer). Japanese lacquer is obviously renowned for its finesse, refinement, its brilliant colors but especially for the precision of his work in gold and its patterns (maki-e). Western will insist besides to want to imitate it.
Witness of his time, we can admire many pattern quite representative of the Japanese art: scene of palace or hunting and symbols such as the magnolia, the stork or the phoenix.
Note on each side of the furniture; two handles, they were often in use because it was necessary to quickly move the furniture if you wanted to avoid seeing burn in the fires caused by frequent earthquakes.
This furniture is part of this Japanese tradition but singular characteristics make it stand out from the rest of creation and ranks among the atypical furniture and so rare nowadays. Indeed, the furniture is mainly singular by its ample dimensions, in addition, the rotary central part is something quite original. The fantastic lacquer work that we admire on all 4 sides of this piece is really unusual. In addition, countless ironwork and quality of execution goldsmith go in this same direction and also testify to the exceptional quality of this furniture.
A rare work is presented here, both for its decorative filler as its execution quality.

Shodanas are sometimes sold in auction room and at record prices. On 14 September 2011 Christie’s awarded 337,500 euros a small Shodana presented at the 1900 Universal Exhibition (92,6cm high x 70.5 cm wide x 43 cm deep). Recently September 18, 2013 at Christie’s NY Shodana was estimated 130,000 - € 160,000 (106 x 96 cm high, 8 cm wide x 40 cm deep). A Shodana with similar dimensions albeit smaller and less precious sold May 18, 2012 at Christie’s London € 48,360 (199 cm high x 126.5 cm wide x 36.5 cm deep)

Also discover