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Japan [Asia]

Pair of mounted bowls  late 17th to early 18th century: mounts, late 18th century

Wood decorated in black and gold lacquer, mounted in gilt bronze | RCIN 3154

Picture Gallery, Buckingham Palace

  • Pair of Japanese lacquered bowls with rounded sides curving in towards the lip. On the outside of RCIN 3154.1, a design outlined in black and gold on a fundame ground, with swirling mist encircling islands of growing lotus, reeds and other plants, with some leaves in raised relief; inside, a similar design. RCIN 3154.2 shows, on one side, pine and bamboo growing on an island and two mon emblems, and the other side continues the mythological theme with a crane, a minogame or ‘flaming turtle’ (both further symbols of longevity), and a single mon. The identical gilt-bronze mounts comprising a scrolling rim with Bacchus masks before and behind issuing grapes, vine leaves and tendrils, with a hatched and pounced ground below the thickly cast upper moulded edge. At each side, twisted, fluted and overlapping ribbon-tied stem loop handles, which descend into overlapping quatrefoils. The interior of the mouth rim with pounced panels, and behind each Bacchus mask, a large quatrefoil nut. Where the side handles pierce the lower part of the bowl, a smaller corresponding quatrefoil nut on the inside. The bowl supported on a spiral, shallow-fluted socle with foliage, on a square plinth with pounced panels with burnished borders. The bowl’s foot and handles cut to accommodate the mounts

    The mount castings are French, the rim mount of RCIN 3154.1 cast in six sections; on RCIN 3154.2, the rim cast in four sections, in two long and two short elements. The seams more visible on RCIN 3154.1. RCIN 3154.1 also constructed with two narrow strips of gilt bronze (W 2.5 cm) in the rim mount between the handles and the Bacchus heads. Each handle cast individually. The quatrefoil mount below the rim also cast as one piece. The socle made in two parts, with a seam visible running horizontally around the central part of the socle, indicating the upper part cast separately from the lower and then brazed together; from the inside, some brazing scores visible, providing tabs to secure the upper and lower parts of the socle. The square plinth cast as five pieces: the top and four side panels cast separately and then joined. On RCIN 3154.1, the underside of the socle with three locating lugs and the plinth with three corresponding holes. On RCIN 3154.2, the underside with a single locating lug and two screw holes. The plinth with four holes for bolts (two are redundant), indicating a slight change of position on the plinth. Both with four bolt holes in the top of the socle where it joins the bowl. The mounts notched ‘I’ and ‘II’. The foliate screws and other mounts marked ‘.’ and ‘..’, with corresponding marks on the rim. The plinth of RCIN 3154.1 marked ‘1’. The plinth of RCIN 3154.2 marked twice ‘I’, and once ‘II’.

    These bowls combine Japanese lacquer and French mounts of equally high quality. Each bowl was made by building up numerous very thin layers of lacquer on a thin wooden base. The lacquer is decorated with swirling eddies, herons and plants against a granular gold (nashiji) ground. Lacquer objects of this quality were not made for the export market and this may have reached the West by means of the private trading that officers of the various East India companies were permitted to carry on.

    Text adapted from Royal Treasures, A Golden Jubilee Celebration, London 2002 and "Gold", London, 2014 and Chinese and Japanese Works of Art in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen: Volume III.


    Acquired by George IV, before 1824.
  • Medium & Techniques

    Wood decorated in black and gold lacquer, mounted in gilt bronze

    wood, gilt bronze



    29.8 x 38.7 x 31.4 cm (whole object)

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