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Tray

Tray

  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    18th century (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Lacquer and wood

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Lady Paula Brown

  • Museum number:

    FE.16-2004

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This flower-shaped tray is made from wood covered with lacquer in a technique known as Negoro-nuri (Negoro lacquer). The term derives from lacquer objects made at the Negoro temple for the priests' daily use. The temple was founded in 1288 when Bishop Raiyu Sojo and his pupils moved down from the nearby Mount Koyasan. Negoro-nuri later became a generic term for undecorated lacquer characterised by thick layers of red over black lacquer. Through repeated use, the top layers became worn away resulting in irregular patches of the underlying black lacquer. The resulting unplanned colour effects, combined with the shapes of the objects, were greatly prized.

This tray also has historical associations as it was given to Christopher Dresser (1834-1904), the industrial designer, in Japan. With the opening of Japan in the late nineteenth century, Dresser did much to introduce Japanese art to the British public. In partnership with Charles Holme, a Bradford businessman, Dresser set up a wholesale company, Dresser & Holme of Farringdon Road, London, to import Japanese art. The tray bears a label 'Given to me as a present by the chief priest at the temple where we stay at KOYA-ZAN as a specimen of old red lacquer. No.122 C. Dresser'. It was given to the museum by one of Holme's descendants.

Physical description

This flower-shaped tray is on a raised and slightly flaring foot and has six shaped petals, which curve slightly upward and out, surrounding a slightly recessed central circular area.
It is made from wood covered in layers of black lacquer followed by layers of red lacquer on the top which have rubbed down to reveal the black below in a haphazard way. This technique is known as Negoro-nuri (Negoro lacquer).

Place of Origin

Japan (made)

Date

18th century (made)

Materials and Techniques

Lacquer and wood

Marks and inscriptions

'Given to me as a present by the chief priest at the temple where we stay at KOYA-ZAN as a specimen of old red lacquer. No.122 C. Dresser'
Inscribed by hand on a piece of paper stuck to the base and signed by Christopher Dresser, the recipient of the gift.
In his important and seminal work 'Japan; its Architecture, Art, and Art Manufactures', Longmans, Green, and Co, London 1882, Dresser talks at length (pp.127-134) of his visit to Koyazan, the temple and the chief priest, whom also acted as a guide. Unfortunately, however, he does not refer to the tray.

Dimensions

Circumference: 22.9 cm, Height: 5.2 cm

Object history note

The donor of this tray, Lady Paula Brown, is the great-granddaughter of Charles Holme, a Bradford businessman. Holme, in partnership with Christopher Dresser, set up a wholesale company, Dresser & Holme of Farringdon Road, London, to import Japanese art.

Historical context note

This tray was given to Christopher Dresser in Japan, but came to the V&A from a descendant of Charles Holme, the business partner of Christopher Dresser.

Descriptive line

Flower-shaped tray in back and red Negoro lacquer, 18th century, Japan

Materials

Lacquer; Wood

Categories

Lacquerware

Collection

East Asia Collection

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