We have launched a new website and are reviewing this page. Find out more
The Van Diemen Box, Japan, 1636 -1639. Museum no. W.49-1916

The Van Diemen Box, Japan, 1636 - 1639. Museum no. W.49-1916



The Mazarin Chest belongs to a small group of extremely high quality export lacquer items made in Kyoto during the 1630s and early 1640s, several of which are owned by the V&A. The objects in this group share a number of characteristics including the use of geometric borders, ogival cartouches and subject matter alluding to the Tale of Genji, the Eight Views of the Xiaoxiang and the Eight Views of Omi.


The decoration on these objects was executed using takamaki-e ('raised sprinkled picture') and other complex techniques involving the lavish use of gold, silver, mother-of-pearl and other materials. The group consists of nine objects, four of which are in the V&A. A number of other objects related to the group are also known. While they appear to have been made at about the same time, their quality is not as high.


Work of such exquisite quality as the Mazarin Chest could not have been realised without the involvement of the leading contemporary lacquer workshops of Kyoto, particularly those of the Igarashi and Koami families. There are unmistakable similarities between the Mazarin Chest and the famous Hatsune no Chodo, a sumptuous wedding set belonging to the Tokugawa Art Museum in Nagoya. This is recorded as having been made in the workshop of the tenth generation head of the Koami family, Koami Nagashige (1599-1651), between 1637 and 1639, and provides a useful indicator as to when the Mazarin Chest is likely to have been produced.


V&A Innovative Leadership Programme

The V&A Innovative Leadership Programme is aimed at managers working in the arts & creative industries looking to develop new skills, insight and opportunity. Applications are now open for the next course.

Apply now