Vintage and Antique Lacquerware

In today's instant-gratification culture, it's difficult to imagine the patience required to make a piece of lacquerware. Taking its name from the lacquer tree, lacquerware objects such as boxes, vases, and pieces of furniture are made from applying layer upon layer of painstakingly treated lacquer sap to a base of cloth or wood. Once applied by brush or immersion, the sap, which is thinned with tung oil and colored with minerals such as cinnabar, is allowed to dry in the dark until hard, at which point another layer is applied, followed by another and then another. This tedious, exacting process is usually repeated scores of times, sometimes hundreds.

Lacquerware is generally thought to have originated in China during the Han period (206 BC to 220 AD), but it was not until the 14th century at the beginning of the Ming dynasty that carved lacquerware become common. In particular, lacquerware cups and vases that had been tinted red by cinnabar were deeply carved. Other lacquerware pieces, from modest trays to room-dividing screens, were inlaid with mother of pearl, ivory, and other materials to produce elaborate scenes against a polished black backdrop.

Beginning in the 16th-century, the lacquerware exported from China was known as Coromandel, so named for the coastline of southeastern India where ships bearing this cargo often docked before heading around the Cape of Good Hope en route to Europe. One of the most popular applications of this type of lacquerware was the screen, so much so that many pieces today are often described as Coromandel screens.

Lacquerware techniques didn't make their way to Japan until the 8th century. There, artisans perfected the practice of sprinkling gold and other pigment-producing materials into the wet lacquer, a technique known as maki-e. In fact, gold was a favorite companion for lacquer among Japanese artisans, who used the precious metal in its solid and ground forms, sometimes polishing it until it glowed, other times using it in relief to give a lacquerware item sculptural properties and dimension. If gold was a favorite metal, small containers called inro were a favorite form. These flask-like boxes with multiple compartments were carried by Japanese men, usually hung from a sash and secured by a piece of netsuke.

By the 17th century, lacquerware was so commonly associated with Japan that the term "japanning" was coined by Europeans to describe just about any piece of furniture or decorative household item that was shiny. Unlike true lacquerware, though, japanned pieces produced in Europe were usually made of wood that had been coated with only a layer or two of shellac.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Asian Art Museum

Asian Art Museum

You can get happily lost searching through the 10,000 or so objects on the Asian Art Museum's website. For example,… [read review or visit site]

Gotheborg.com

Gotheborg.com

Jan-Erik Nilsson's extensive reference on antique Chinese porcelain. Jam-packed with information (e.g. on porcelain… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Fine Antique Chinese Famille Verte Porcelain Divided Butterfly Tray Lacquer Box19th Century Chinese / Canton Lacquered Double Sided 'thousand Faces' Hand FanChinese Circular Lacquered Lidded BoxTiny Miniature Chinese Antique Dice Figural Lacquer Geisha Girl Shaker Charm FobAntique Japanese Meiji Period Wood & Gold Lacquer Box Circa 1900Japanese Lacquer Wooden Tea Caddy Matsukui-tsuru Makie Nakatsugi-natsume (jsp)Wood Chinese Carved Panels Lacquer Gilt Teapot Caddy Tea Box Holder Dragons Antique Chinese Wooden Lacquered Gold Gilt Hand Painted Tea Caddy Box C1870 .C1920s Art Deco Era Vintage Antique Japanese Lacquer Tea Caddy, BoxAntique/old Chinese Wooden Carved Lacquer Gilt Painted Vase On Stand - Marks85926# Japanese Lacquer Ware / Lunch Box / Set Of 586339# Japanese Tea Ceremony / Lacquered Lid For Mizusashi / Set Of 2Japanese Traditional Lacquer Wooden Tea Caddy Tomaya-natsume (602) Wabi85904# Japanese Lacquered Box / By Koshu / Urushi / Makie / Plant 85925# Japanese Lacquer Ware / Lunch Box / Set Of 585996# Japanese Tea Ceremony / Lacquered Flower Vase Stand / Shell Inlay86356# Japanese Lacquered Lunch Box Set Of 3 / Bento / Urushi / Makie Fine Antique Chinese Carved Wood Lacquer Court Garden Scene Pewter Tea Caddy BoxSplendid Japanese Maki-e 蒔絵 Lacquer Tanto Dagger >250yr Edo Samurai Katana SwordUnusually Large Boxed Chinese Export Lacquer Fan 1000 Faces Medallions BirdsBoxed Chinese Export Lacquer Fan Hand Painted Medallions Cash 1000 Faces BirdsJapanese Vtg Buddhist Lacquered Wood Altar Stand Table Kyozukue Drawer Big  D531: Real Japanese Old Lacquer Ware Samurai Pillbox Inro Of Popular Work C7733: Japanese Wooden Lacquer Ware Negoro Coating Tea Ceremony Box Hyokan Made E287: Chinese Lacquer Ware Decorative Stand Of Traditional Work Of Guri Style17c Chinese Basket Lacquer Plate Dish Scholar Figure Figurine Calligraphy PoemCd1: Japanese High-class Tea Ceremony Lacquered Bamboo Kensui Bowl, Mt. FujiAfghan Wood Lacquer Spice BoxC7761: Japanese Wooden Lacquer Ware Flower Fan Pattern Food Boxes Jubako W/boxD821: Japanese Lacquer Ware Powdered Tea Container With Great Monk's Appraisal.Japan Traditional Jyohouji Lacquer Wooden Tea Caddy Clematis Makie Natsume (607)Rare 19th C Japanese Antique Lacquered Ainu Makiri Kogatana Netsuke D742Ce8: Japanese Chabitsu, Lacquered Wooden Box To Hold Tea Pot & Cups, Dia. 9.1"Ck8: Japanese Gold & Silver Leaf Lacquered Wooden Tea Plates By Heian ZohikoH1015: Japanese Wooden Paulownia Lacquer Ware Inkstone Case W/boxJapanese Antique Lacquered Wood Lunch Box Bento Jubako Oju Gold Gilt Kin Makie Large 13.75" X 10.75" Antique 19th Century Japanese Lacquer PanelOriental Vintage Delicate Lacquer Hand-carved Hex Vase H887: Japanese Wooden Lacquer Ware Container For Article Accessories Case BoxChinese Lacquerware Handwork Carved Dragon Plate Qq15Oriental Vintage Delicate Lacquer Hand-carved Dragon VaseFine 18th / 19th Century Antique Chinese Lacquered Wood FigureUrushi Lacquerware ,beautiful Japanese SpoonesNegoro Japanese Lacquer Ware Okura Museum Sake Tea Food Vessels Buddhist Temple Co7: Japanese Lacquered Wooden Tea-thing Bowl For Tea Cloth, Chakin OtoshiJapanese Wood Pair Plate Takatsuki Buddhist Shrine Article Lacquered Wood LotusFine 18th / 19th Century Antique Chinese Lacquered FigureFine Rare Antique Old Chinese Asian Black Lacquer Desk Table Box Decorated LargeAntique Japanese Miniature Flower Vendor Lacquer Okimono - Amazing DetailedFine Antique Islamic Large Lacquered Paper Machie Gold Gilt Book Cover 85903# Japanese Lacquer Handled Tray / Shell Inlay / Urushi / Makie / Flower Old Shen Shoa An Lang Lee Chinese Lacquer Bowl & Pair Smaller Lacquer PlatesAntique Japanese Lacquered Brush Box/glove BoxAntique Japanese Lacquered Glove Box/brush BoxExquisite Rare Old Chinese Lacquerware Buddha Seated Statue Sculpture Ab052Antique Chinese Ming/yuan/song Black Gold Lacquer Inserted Shells Asian China86310# Japanese Wakasa Lacquer Bowl / Resin Chinese Lacquerware Handwork Painting Plum&orchid&bamboo&chrysanthemum Screen Chinese Lacquerware Handwork Carved Chinese Drama Figure Diao Chan Statue Lp18Japanese Vtg32cm 12.6” Long Wood Buddhist Red Lacquered Altar Stand Kyozukue Nr