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Lacquered wood and mother-of-pearl
H : 36 cm L : 35.9 cm D : 27 cm
M.C. 2009−1

This foldable lectern represents a model entirely different from traditional Japanese desks, as well as European lecterns. It was inspired by Quran lecterns, or rahl, which Christian missionaries came across during their peregrinations to Asia, especially in India. The letters IHS (Iesus Hominum Salvator) next to the cross, the Sacred Heart and the nails of the crucifixion are the symbols of the Society of Jesus. Jesuit missionaries had in fact commissioned these liturgical objects from Japanese artisans, from 1577 onwards, for local use. These objects included portable altars, host boxes and portable lecterns. They were probably produced from the late 16th century through the first decades of the 17th century, as missionaries began to be gradually driven out of Japan in 1613.

Lacquered objects decorated in this style, called Namban (南蛮, “Southern barbarians”), are characterised by the application of golden lacquer in low relief (hiramaki-e 平蒔絵) or even the inlay of mother-of-pearl abalone against a black background, very much in style in Japan during the Momoyama Period (1574 - 1615).

Namban lecterns are generally divided into two categories: those with “geometric” decorations, or hexagonal tortoiseshell (kikkō-mon 亀甲紋), created mainly in mother-of-pearl, and those with plant decorations created mainly with gold lacquer hiramaki-e. This lectern has a “geometric” decoration of interlaced pearls (shippōtsunagi-mon 七宝繋), but the initial is not surrounded by plant decorations; therefore it may belong to a middle category, between the first and second styles. The back is decorated with a flower rinceau kuzu (葛) with a rinceau leaf border (karakusa-mon 唐草紋). The lectern’s original metal mount, lost in most cases, has also been preserved.

Collection : Japanese decorative arts
Mode d'acquisition : Purchase, 2009
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