Estimated at £5000-10,000, it was offered for sale on behalf of a London-based client who had kept it in storage in Reading. It was bought by a London dealer.
Europeans admired lacquer for its hardness and lustre, which had no equivalent in western decorative arts. From the late 16th century, when Europeans began to arrive in Japan for trade and Christian missions, Japanese craftsmen developed a style of lacquer especially for export.
In a style known as namban or ‘southern barbarian’, these combined European forms and a hybrid style of gold hiramaki-e and abalone shell decoration and elaborate gilt copper mounts were considered appropriate for Westerners.
That these differed from indigenous furniture is apparent in the terminology employed by the Japanese to describe them.
Famously, domed coffers were known locally as kanabokogata or ‘boxes in fish-sausage shape’. This example, measuring 3ft 1in wide x 18in high (95 x 47cm), was in good condition, showing only minor damage and losses to the mother-of-pearl.
The scenes to the exterior included typical vignettes of figures, dwellings, animals and foliage with the underside of the domed top decorated with a pair of birds in fight and fruiting vines.