Japanese Meiji Period Komai Damascene Box


Attributed to the Komai Company

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    Nunome Zogan Gold and Silver

    From our Japanese collection, we are delighted to offer this Japanese Meiji Period Komai Damascene Box. The Japanese Komai Box of excellent quality with a central gold inlaid riverside scene to the lid framed with a silver wire boarder separating an outer boarder with leaves. The sides decorated with a flowing boarder of tight knitted Nunome Zogan silver wire amongst geometric stylised flowers. The Japanese Komai Box is firmly attributed to the komai company due to outstanding quality and applied technique. The Box dates to the Meiji Period (1868-1912) and the late 19th century circa 1895.

    Nunome Zogan (布目象嵌) literally translates as “cloth inlay,”. It consists of first preparing a flat surface with crosshatched lines using a fine chisel to create a series of lines on the entire surface and in several directions to give it a texture that resembles woven cloth.

    Komai company is widely recognised as the leading damascene metalworking company across the Meiji Period (1868-1912). The company began trading under Komai Seibei I initially crafting accessories for swords until the Haito Edict of March 1876. His sons Komai Yoshitaka, Komai Yoshihiro and Komai Otojiro were all in the trade with the most notable Otojiro who signed his work with a dragonfly to the rear. After the Haito Edict the Komai company had to turn to other crafts for their talents and began to produce decorative and useful items of which a huge amount was exported to America and Europe. They crafted objects such as cigarette cases, vases, miniature shadona cabinets and plates all with inlaid gold, silver, and mixed metals. Please see our article ‘The Komai Family Tale’ for an extensive look at the Komai family.

    Meiji Period was an era of Japanese history that spanned from 1868 to 1912. It was the first half of the Empire of Japan, when the Japanese people began to build a paradigm of a modern, industrialised nation state and emergent great power, influenced by Western countries and aesthetics. As a result of radically different ideas, the changes to Japan were profound and it affected the social structure, politics, economy, military, and foreign relations across the board. The period corresponded to the reign of Emperor Meiji and was preceded by the Keio era and was succeeded by the Taisho era.

    Cultural Art during the Meiji Period was of particular interest to the government and they overhauled the art export market which in turn promoted Japanese arts via various world’s fairs, beginning in Vienna at the world fair in 1873. The government heavily funded the fairs and took an active role organising how Japan’s culture was presented to the world including creating a semi-public company named Kiritsu Kosho Kaisha (First Industrial Manufacturing Company). The Kiritsu Kosho Kaisha was used to promote and commercialise exports of Japanese art and established the Hakurankai Jimukyoku (Exhibition Bureau) to maintain quality standards. For the 1876 Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia, the Japanese government created a Centennial Office and sent a special envoy to secure space for the 30,000 items that would be displayed. The Imperial Household also took an active interest in arts and crafts, commissioning works by select artists to be given as gifts for foreign dignitaries further emphasising the high quality and importance of Japanese art. Just before the end of the 19th century in 1890, the Teishitsu Gigeiin (Artist to the Imperial Household) system was created to recognise distinguished artists. These artists were selected for their exceptionally high quality wares and talent in their own industry. Over a period of 54 years Seventy artists were appointed, amongst these were ceramicist Makuzu Kozan and cloisonné enamel artist Namikawa Yasuyuki.

    Measurements 2cm High x 6cm Wide x 4.5cm Deep (0.8 x 2.36 x 1.77 Inches)

    Condition Very Good condition, small rubbing to the bottom.


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