By Tamakaji Zokoku (1806-1869), signed Zokoku象谷
Japan, Kagawa, c. 1850, Edo period (1615-1868)
Of unusual form and oval section, containing one large and one smaller case for medicine, finely carved in low relief with a large peony blossom extending from the right side, borne on a leafy stem against a neatly incised wave ground. The reverse carved with a spray of lilies with one reishi rising from behind. Each frame is set with a quadrilobed border and flanked above and below by a rinzu band. The top and bottom are finely decorated with a large floral medallion surrounded by curling leaves, the bottom bearing the seal signature of the artist, ZOKOKU, within the center of the medallion. With a faux coral ojime.
HEIGHT 10 cm, LENGTH 5.8 cm
Condition: Very good condition with only minor wear and traces of use.
Provenance: Collection of Robert and Isabelle de Strycker, acquired from the above and thence by descent in the same family. The upper case with an old collector’s label, ‘L 619.’ Robert de Strycker (1903-1968) was a French engineer who specialized in metallurgy. He was a Stanford graduate, a professor at the University of Leuven, a director of the Institute of Metallurgy at the Université Catholique de Louvain, and one of the most influential members of the faculty of applied sciences. After World War II, he made large contributions to France’s post-war recovery. Robert and his wife Isabelle (1915-2010) first encountered Chinese art at the British Museum during a stay in London in the 1930s. Enamored with the style and beauty, they both decided to study and collect Chinese works of art. In 1938 they eventually began to build their collection, buying from Belgian, Parisian, and English dealers. They kept close contact with the famous English collector Sir Harry Garner (1891-1977) and noted Czech collector and expert Fritz Low-Beer (1906-1976). In 1964, the couple lent 174 objects from their collection to the Belgian city of Leuven’s museum for an exhibition titled Oude kunst in Leuvens Privébezit (‘Old Art in Private Collections in Leuven’), and in 1967 they lent around thirty Japanese objects to the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels for their exhibition Kunst van Japan im belgischen Privatverzameingen (‘Japanese Art in Belgian Private Collections’).
The production of lacquerware in Kagawa (Shikoku) was encouraged by daimyo Yorishige Matsudaira (1622-1695) and many artisans took up residence in the area. Zokoku Tamakaji was born in Takamatsu in 1806, but at the age of 20 he moved to Kyoto to study with various painters and lacquerers and had the opportunity to research Chinese lacquer techniques, then bringing his knowledge to Kagawa and helping to seal its reputation as a major lacquerware producing area.
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