This Japanese antique lacquered cherry wood photo album is inlaid with mother of pearl. Mother of pearl is a smooth shining iridescent substance forming the inner layer of the shell of some mollusks, especially oysters and abalones, used in ornamentation. This inlay is used to decorate the design of a blossom tree and birds flying about on this photo album. The album itself is made of fine cherry wood, smooth and lightly lacquered. As in old albums, the black paper pages are covered with tracing like paper. There is an old photo of a wedding party found in the album which looks like it probably dates to the 1920's. Tassels hang from the binding on the bottom. Inside, there are 14 black pages for scrapbooking and pictures, all in good condition.
We purchased this from an auction and were told that it was a 20th-century piece. I just finished thoroughly reading through a 230-page book called 'Lacquerware in Asia, Today and Yesterday' by Monika Kopplin and published in 2002. On page 74 is an old old lacquerware album with a mother of pearl inlay along with a long discussion about shells used for lacquerware inlay and including the history of the art as a craft from Japan's Ryukyu Islands. There are at least several pages that discuss this and I found it on the internet quite by accident, it cannot be linked as it is a pdf document to share. Anyway, a comparison of our album to the one in the book has me convinced, this is a 19th-century piece which we suspected previously. It is highly likely it was made by a skilled artisan of the Ryukyu Islands. It is in very good antique condition, with some minor surface wear of scratches, please see the pictures. All parts are working well and in good overall condition, the binding being very secure. An excellent piece for scrapbooking old family pictures or a gift, corner stickers can be used to inset your pictures. This is a gorgeous and fine old piece it is a very classy work of art as a photo album.
SIZE: Length 14.5" or 36.83 cm, Height 10.5" or 26.67 cm, Thickness 1 1/2" or 3.81 cm
Excerpts History and Methods of Mother of Pearl Inlay and Lacquerware in Japan from 'Lacquerware in Asia, Today and Yesterday'
Japan's Ryukyu Islands, continued. The island craftsmen’s mother-of-pearl work closely imitated the Chinese models, even more so than their painted lacquer work. In the 1600's, Chinese influences were gradually replaced by Japanese preferences in style and motif. The Japanese raden technique was discussed in this book as a method of working with the mother of pearl sometimes using up to five different types of shells.
Another lacquer technique, also of Chinese origin and already datable to the Ming period,10 became a trademark of Ryukyu Islands artistry in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: tsuikin relief decoration. This procedure, poetically described by the Japanese as ‘heaped brocade’ originally called (Chinese tui-ts’ai, consisted in stamping out individual floral or scenic motifs from a rolled paste of powdered grindstone and lacquer, usually green, ochre, brown or red in colour, which was then applied to a red or more rarely a black lacquer base with the interior design engraved afterwards. The lacquer-paste relief may also have been applied directly to the item with a piping bag. The effect is similar to carved lacquer, which tsuikin imitates as a simple and less expensive substitute. It is therefore also called ‘false carved lacquer’. Landscapes and figures imitating Chinese models occur alongside leaf and flower patterns that cover the sides of the items. Although most of the surviving examples appear to date from the nineteenth century, it has been demonstrated that this technique was already in use on the Ryukyu Islands in the early seventeenth century and was apparently considerably refined at the beginning of the eighteenth century by the lacquer master, Bô Kô-toku. The lacquer techniques currently in use on Okinawa mainly use tsuikin techniques, although today’s version has been commercialised and is less time-consuming. page 72.
In the modern commercial lacquer industry, which has flourished especially since the return of the Ryukyu Islands to Japan in 1972, one manufacturer uses pig’s blood as a primer. Today, there are five independent lacquer masters on the island of Okinawa. page 73
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