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  • Place of origin:

    Nagasaki (probably, made)

  • Date:

    1860-1867 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tortoiseshell, with gold hiramaki-e and takamaki-e lacquer, inlaid with mother-of-pearl

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 125, Edwin and Susan Davies Gallery, case 3

Object Type
This dish is typical of objects manufactured for export to the West at the end of the 19th century. It has no real function and was made for purely decorative purposes. The combination of tortoiseshell and lacquer decorated with peacocks embodied the exoticism that the West associated with Japan.

Since the early 17th century trade with Europe had only been permitted through the Dutch base on the island of Deshima in Nagasaki harbour. Apart from very high-quality items that were made to order in Kyoto, Nagasaki was the source of most Japanese export lacquerware. With the opening up of Japan in the 1850s, Nagasaki was nominated as one of three official ports through which trade with the West could be conducted. In the late 19th century it also became a major centre for the production of gold lacquer applied to an ivory or tortoiseshell ground.

Historical Associations
This dish was one of a group of objects displayed by the Japanese at the Paris Exhibition of 1867. The Japanese exhibits were enormously popular. This and subsequent international exhibitions were largely responsible for introducing Japanese art to the Western public. The V&A bought 20 items of Japanese lacquerwork from the Paris Exhibition.

Place of Origin

Nagasaki (probably, made)


1860-1867 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Tortoiseshell, with gold hiramaki-e and takamaki-e lacquer, inlaid with mother-of-pearl


Height: 6 cm, Diameter: 30.5 cm maximum

Descriptive line

Tortoiseshell dish depicting peacocks

Labels and date

British Galleries:

The display organised by the Japanese at the Paris Exhibition of 1867 was a great success. Crowds flocked to see it. These are some of the many items acquired by the Museum. They are typical of the kind of objects made in Japan to meet the growing European demand. [27/03/2003]

Subjects depicted



East Asia Collection

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