Simplified Chinese lacquer techniques and Nanban style decoration on Luso-Asian objects from the late sixteenth or early seventeenth centuries

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Publication Type:

Journal Article


Ulrike Körber; Michael R. Schilling; Cristina Barrocas Dias; Luis Dias;


Studies in Conservation, Volume 61, Number sup3, p.68-84 (2016)


The meeting of multiple cultures and their mutual influence during the Portuguese expansion in Asia led to the emergence of different types of fusion styles in objects commissioned by the settlers, merchants, and religious orders present in Portuguese India. The east-Asian lacquer coatings of modestly sized wooden objects of various types dating from the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries have been analyzed as part of the research for a doctoral thesis that aims to establish their cultural and geographical attribution within the context of the Getty Conservation Institute's lacquer research project. Among the objects were three seventeenth-century lacquered trays from Portuguese museums and private collections that had previously been classified as Japanese Nanban, Chinese or Ryukyuan lacquers or even as Indo-Portuguese artifacts. The materials and techniques that were identified show close similarities with Chinese techniques mentioned in historic accounts — the only existing Ming Chinese Treatise on lacquering Xiushi lu and the eighteenth-century memoirs of the Jesuit priest d'Incarville. These nearly 400-year-old artifacts are among the first lacquered objects commissioned by Europeans and probably the first of Chinese origin. Their detailed technical study contributes to international lacquer research and complements existing knowledge and perceptions of the lacquering processes that were applied in response to an early European demand for exotic items.