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An extremely rare and highly important late 17th century Japanese export lacquer mirror of very large size, retaining the original bevelled mirror plate within a cushion frame applied with early 17th century Japanese black makume lacquer embellished with gold and mother of pearl inlay, having decorative scrolled inner border of floral roundels and leafwork in gold and brown on a black background. The cushion moulding is veneered with cut segments of a lacquer panel depicting a Japanese landscape with houses, trees, mountains and a waterfront with boats, within a mother of pearl inlaid shaped border. The original design becomes apparent when the cut segments are placed back together. Adjacent to these convex lacquer sections is a flat, finely executed strip of key pattern motif inlaid with mother of pearl and decorated with gold, and finished with a black japanned thumb moulding on the outside. Note: The size of the mirror plate is extraordinary; it is about as large as it was possible to produce in this early period of manufacturing mirror plates. Possessing such a large scale mirror plate would have been a statement of extreme wealth and importance at the time, emphasised by the use of exotic Japanese lacquer. A mirror of similar size, with identical decorative border and very similar lacquer, and probably from the same workshop, was formerly at Althorp, Northamptonshire, and is now on display at ‘The Victoria and Albert Museum’, London. Crest now missing.

Literature: Joe Earle, Rupert Faulkner, Verity Wilson, Rose Kerr and Craig Clunas, ‘Japanese Art and Design’, 1986, illus. 152; a Japanese chest with almost identical scroll border and mother of pearl key strip. Oliver Impey, ‘Japanese Export Lacquer, 1580-1850’, 2005, pp. 153 & 289; examples of Japanese coffers with similar lacquer decoration.


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