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Fan (ogi) and presentation box c. 1880

Ivory brisé fan decorated with raised gold lacquer work (takamaki-e); silver pin and engraved silver loop, cream silk tassel | 25.7 cm (guardstick) | RCIN 25182

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  • This fan was a gift from Princess Chichibu (1909-95) to either Queen Mary or Queen Elizabeth in 1937. Princess Chichibu was born Setsuko Matsudaira, in the Surrey town of Walton-on-Thames. She was the daughter of Tsuneo Matsudaira, Japanese Ambassador to Washington and London, and in 1928 she married Prince Chichibu, the younger brother of the Emperor Shōwa. The prince and princess attended the Coronation of King George VI in 1937. During their visit, the couple visited both Queen Mary at Marlborough House (on 30 April) and the king and queen at Buckingham Palace (on 19 May), but it is not known to whom the fan was presented.

    This ivory fan (zōge ōgi) is of brisé design – that is, with solid sticks of ivory joined together with a ribbon, rather than with a folded leaf attached to the sticks. Both the fan and its box are decorated in high-relief gold lacquer (takamakie) of different shades. The lacquer work on the fan is abundant, filling both guard sticks, and the design across the recto is repeated in reverse on the back. It is typical of the high-quality export wares created in Japan towards the end of the nineteenth century. Chrysanthemums, associated with the Japanese imperial family and depicted in their mon, appear on both the fan and its box. This was evidently a deliberate choice, as a note in the box indicates that they were a gift from Princess Chichibu (1909–95).

    As befits a gift from a member of the Japanese imperial family, the quality of the lacquer work is extremely high. The present fan is particularly notable for the amount of gold lacquer work on both the recto and verso, and for the overall decoration with chrysanthemums. Repeated layers of lac (from tree sap) mixed with ground gold would have been involved in its creation, each layer being carefully rubbed down before the next was applied. After the lifting of the trade barrier with Japan in 1853, Japanese goods became very sought after in the West and Japanese manufacturers soon learnt to adjust their output specifically to accommodate Western taste. Fans of similar appearance to this were produced in Japan in the late nineteenth century, often specifically for presentation to high-ranking European recipients. The original lacquer box is typical of a Japanese export product.

    Text adapted from Unfolding Pictures: Fans in the Royal Collection (2005) and Japan: Courts and Culture (2020)

    Presented by Princess Chichibu to either Queen Mary or Queen Elizabeth, 1937

  • Creator(s)
  • Medium and techniques

    Ivory brisé fan decorated with raised gold lacquer work (takamaki-e); silver pin and engraved silver loop, cream silk tassel


    25.7 cm (guardstick)

    5.0 x 32.5 x 9.5 cm (whole object)

  • Place of Production