Shapes of Metal Materials Used for Hira Maki-e Technique—Seminar by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

Ongoing seminar

 For the fifth seminar in FY 2018, held on October 2nd by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems, Dr. Yoshimi KAMIYA from Kanazawa University delivered a presentation titled “Shapes of Metal Materials Used for Hira Maki-e Technique—Mainly Focusing on Namban Lacquer Examples .”
 Hira Maki-e (flat maki-e) is one of the Maki-e (Japanese lacquer technique sprinkled with gold or silver powder) techniques started in the Azuchi–Momoyama period. Compared to the existing mainstream techniques such as Togidashi Maki-e (polished maki-e) and Taka Maki-e (raised maki-e), it is a simpler technique, where gold or silver powder is sprinkled over the pattern drawn with Urushi lacquer. This technique is considered to have been used for maki-e works in Kodaiji style and Namban lacquerware produced in Kyoto as exports to Europe and Americaby orders from Europeans.
 The shapes of the metal powders found on lacquer fragments from Namban lacquerware and similar works produced in the early 17th century, which can be found both at home and abroad, as well as those for maki-e lacquer works made by the presenter for comparison, were observed carefully in a non-destructive manner by using a scanning electron microscope (SEM) and reported.
 As a result, Maru-fun, round powders rasped off from the metal body were found for a piece of Namban lacquerware. However, some pieces for in which powder made from gold foil had been used was were recognized for the first time. And even, indicating the possibility that powder. This discovery requires us to re-examine the actual states of production techniques, producers, and workshops for exported lacquer in the early Edo period. This is also an important fact when considering the process of how Keshi-fun Maki-e (maki-e technique using powder from metal foil) first appeared and its history.
 For the seminar, Mr. Kazumi MUROSE, a holder of Important Intangible Cultural Property (maki-e) and lacquer art historians in and around Tokyo were invited for an active discussion about the kinds of materials the reported metal powders originate in, the relationship with maki-e masters or artisans depicted in the paintings of craftsmen (Shokuninn-e), the need of factual research in maki-e technical history, and issues on the definition of maki-e.
 This presentation revealed the fact that observation of fallen lacquer fragments with an electron microscope is very effective for verification of lacquer production techniques, particularly maki-e technique. Further accumulation and study of analyzed works are much expected for the positioning of and attaching significance to each reported case. Deepening of this research may contribute to clarification of the actual state of the painting technique history since metal powder is among the materials used widely not only for lacquerware but also for paintings.

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