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Inro, signed Koma Kansai, 1775-1850. Museum no.

Inro, signed Koma Kansai, 1775-1850. Museum no. W.254-1921


The V&A has an important and substantial collection of lacquer comprising Asian, Islamic and European japanned wares (objects made to imitate East Asian lacquer). Its collection of Japanese lacquer is particularly impressive, and it also has very fine holdings of Chinese and Burmese lacquer.


A substantial proportion of the V&A's lacquer collection was acquired through gifts and bequests, largely between 1910 and 1922. Important benefactors include George Salting, William Cleverley Alexander and his three daughters, Lillian E. Sage, in memory of her husband Edward Mears Sage, Richard A. Pfungst and, most recently, Sir Harry and Lady Garner. During the formative years of the V&A, items of lacquerware were donated by Queen Victoria (reigned 1837-1901) and the Daimyo of Satsuma; several pieces of lacquer were also purchased from the Japanese section of the 1867 Paris International Exhibition.


Cylindrical box, China, 15th century. Museum no. FE.24-1974

Cylindrical box, China, 15th century. Museum no. FE.24-1974

The V&A's collection of Japanese lacquerware contains around 2,500 pieces, of which 800 are lacquered inro (small, highly decorated containers that were worn suspended from the sash). The majority of works date from the Edo period (1615-1868), when there was a remarkable outpouring of creativity in the field of lacquering and many other crafts. In recent years, the V&A has pursued an active policy of acquiring examples of Japanese lacquer made by leading contemporary artists.


The V&A holds a unique and internationally acclaimed collection of extremely high quality Japanese export lacquer dating from the 1630s and early 1640s. Their supreme craftsmanship means that only a small number of pieces were produced. Despite their scarcity, however, the V&A has four objects of this kind, together with parts of a fifth: the Van Diemen Box, a casket in renaissance form, a small wedding casket, the Mazarin Chest, and panels from what is thought to have been a similar chest of comparable size and quality.


A gift in your will

You may not have thought of including a gift to a museum in your will, but the V&A is a charity and legacies form an important source of funding for our work. It is not just the great collectors and the wealthy who leave legacies to the V&A. Legacies of all sizes, large and small, make a real difference to what we can do and your support can help ensure that future generations enjoy the V&A as much as you have.