This black lacquer kazaridana (display cabinet) was crafted in the Meiji period in Japan. The body of the cabinet is topped by a roof with upward-curving ends, which faded red tassels hang from. The cabinet is divided in half lengthways by a gap in the structure, and then arranged into four compartments. The top left section consists of two long drawers, below of which are two square-shaped cupboards, with a smaller square cupboard on the right, with a drawer beneath it. The top right compartment projects further forward than the left, and is comprised of a removable red lacquered door, with two small drawers above it. On the bottom left, there is a long drawer, with an angular cupboard above it. A cupboard, with two doors, is located on the bottom right. All of the cupboard doors open onto a series of smaller drawers and compartments. The structure is set on a red lacquer (tsuikin) base, set on four bracket feet.
The front of the cabinet is decorated with Japanese religious and ceremonial subjects. On the drawers in the top section, four ‘tennin’ (Buddhist celestial beings) are depicted in flight. Below, the left-hand cupboards are ornamented with ‘Bugaku’ dancers, wearing traditional costumes and masks. ‘Gagaku’, the musicians of the imperial court, are depicted in the lower left compartment. The top, sides, back, lower front drawer and interiors of the cupboard doors, are decorated with traditional images of Japanese birds, trees and flowers (kachéga).
These decorative scenes have been created by a process called ‘maki-e’. This technique involves sprinkling gold and silver powders onto the black lacquer surface, using bamboo straws and soft brushes. These designs are then covered with a transparent or lightly coloured lacquer to fix them. The cabinet is also ornamented using the ‘togidashimakie’ method. This involves applying metallic powders, then covering them with black lacquer, and re-exposing the design underneath by a process of sanding. Gold and silver leaf has been cut into fine lines, diamonds and triangles, then adhered to the black lacquer, in a technique known as ‘kirikane’.
The cabinet is a truly remarkable and historic piece of Japanese furniture.