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Telling the story of 400 years of British royal contact with Japan

Japan [Asia]

Casket and stand 1922

Enamel, gilt bronze, copper, gold wire, silk | 13.9 × 37.1 × 15.6 cm (whole object) (whole object) | RCIN 42593

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This casket is in the form of an eighth-century Buddhist sutrabox of the type held in the Shōsōin, the Japanese Imperial Repository at Nara. It is decorated in fine cloisonné and moriage (‘piled up’) enamels in gold wire and contains a lengthy scroll from the citizens of Tokyo City dedicated to Edward, Prince of Wales on his visit to the city. The scroll refers to Crown Prince Hirohito’s visit to Britain the previous year and expresses a wish for stronger bonds between the two countries, saying ‘It is particularly fortunate that Your Royal Highness has chosen for your visit a time of the year when all nature joins in the national joy and welcome’ – cherry blossom season. It is signed by Baron Gotō Shinpei, Mayor of Tokyo, 17 April 1922.

In 1900 the Andō Company of Nagoya had been appointed as one of five Purveyors to the Imperial Household (Goyōtatsu) for cloisonné enamel. As the only two enamel artists with the title of Teishitsu Gigei’in (Imperial Household Artist) were no longer working at the time of the prince’s visit, it fell to the company to provide this high-quality gift. The foreman of the Andō Company since around 1900 had been Kawade Shibatarō, whose major enamelling development – sometimes credited to Hattori Tadasaburō, another Nagoya-based maker – was the moriage technique used in this casket. This painstaking method of enamelling required extreme care, especially at the polishing stage, and involved the building up of layers of enamel to produce a subtle three-dimensional effect. This method is ideally suited to subjects such as the lion and unicorn seen on the British royal coat of arms on the lid of the casket.

Text adapted from Japan: Courts and Culture (2020)

  • Place of Production
    Nagoya [Japan]