The program of rotations that the MAO Museo d'Arte Orientale carries out periodically for the correct conservation of the most delicate works includes, after an absence of seven years, the display of a selection of refined Japanese lacquers from the seventeenth century to the early twentieth century. Inside a special case in the gallery of Japan, there will be four lacquered boxes bearing the symbols of the imperial family, the sixteen-petal chrysanthemum and paulownia.
The art of lacquering, imported to Japan from continental Asia, reached its highest technical and expressive levels in the Edo period (1603-1868). This technique consists in coating the surfaces of containers and utensils with colored, transparent or opaque lacquers, often enriched with powders and metal foils or other materials (especially mother of pearl), which give the product effects of precious and compact brilliance.
Among the lacquers exhibited during the rotation, the most valuable piece is a ryoshibako decorated with plant motifs, a box for paper and documents from the Edo period (second half of the 17th century) in lacquered wood with the addition of metal powders applied according to the maki technique -e, which reveals the great mastery achieved by the Japanese artisans of the time. On the background of black lacquer, round corollas of chrysanthemums (kiku) stand out in the foreground alternating with leaves and small flowers of paulownia (kiri), according to the typical Kodaiji style. In the background, to enrich the drawing, some groupings of autumn herbs and flowers. According to traditional iconography, the chrysanthemum and paulownia are associated with the figures of the emperor and the empress and are rich in symbolic meanings: according to legend, the paulownia tree is also linked to the phoenix of Far Eastern tradition, which it would settle only on its branches.