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A JAPANESE ETAGERE 

Origin: Japan
Circa Date: 1860
Stock No: F3C0166
Location: New York
Dimensions:
H: 65.9 in (167.5 cm)
W: 45.5 in (115.5 cm)
L/D: 17.5 in (44.5 cm)
Price Range:
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A highly unusual Japanese Meiji period lacquer cabinet etagere decorated with an ascending avian landscape in low relief, with Mount Fuji in the background and flying cranes and phoenix on the upper tier. The doors and supporting elements decorated to simulate wood, the shaped door panels with further lacquer of Mount Fuji and exotic birds. The whole resting on scroll feet decorated with waves.

Mount Fuji is the tallest mountain in Japan at about 12,400 ft and can be seen on clear days from Tokyo and Yokohama. It is an active volcano, but the last eruption was in 1708, and has an almost perfect symmetrical shape with a snow capped peak.

Mount Fuji has huge cultural and religious significance. This belief can be traced to The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, where a goddess deposits the elixir of life on the peak. As Henry Smith explains, "Thus from an early time, Mt. Fuji was seen as the source of the secret of immortality, a tradition that was at the heart of Hokusai's own obsession with the mountain ". Among the most renowned works are Hokusai's 36 Views of Mount Fuji and his later 100 views of Mount Fuji, both achieved in the 1830's. While Hokusai's Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji is the most famous series to focus on Mount Fuji, there are several other series with the same subject, including Hiroshige's Thirty-six Views.

Hokusai's use of imported Prussian blue ink foreshadows the explosion of international trade and interest in Japan; engendered by the borders opening following Commodore Perry's triumph of gunboat diplomacy in 1853. By the end of the century the 'gout japonais' was influencing fashion and design throughout Europe and America, and Japanese lacquer was in huge demand. This taste had lain dormant since the 18th century when Japanese lacquer was considered the finest and most prestigious material to use in furniture design.

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