Japanese collection believed to be UK's largest
An exhibition of Japanese Shibayama lacquerware which is believed to be the largest collection of its kind in the country has gone on show at the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro.
Highly ornate and often exotic in terms of subject matter, the wide range of objects is considered to be unique in the West.It has also been a well kept secret for nearly a hundred years, with only a small selection of pieces on display in the main galleries since 1991.
The artefacts on display were collected and bequeathed to the museum by C H T Hawkins of Trewithen and a Mr and Mrs Allen. None of them former owners are thought to have visited Japan themselves so their collections are seen as an example of European fascination with all things Japanese from the 1860s to the turn of 20th century. Most of the pieces were made for export.
Shibayama is an art form that was characterised by inlaying exquisitely carved pearl-shell, stained and painted ivory and horn, coral, jade, tortoiseshell and various hardstones into a lacquered wooden or ivory base.
Purely ornamental, the lacquerware included vases, dishes, plaques, table-screens and inros – small, personal medicine or seal boxes.
Museum director Hilary Bracegirdle said: "We are very fortunate to have this extraordinary collection of Shibayama here.
"It's the biggest exhibition of its kind for many years and there are some really wonderful items on display. The colours are incredible."
The Japanese Shibayama exhibition has just opened and will continue until December 31. Entry to the Royal Cornwall Museum in River Street, Truro, costs £5 per adult for a one year pass and is free to anyone aged 18 and under.
For more information, call 01872-272205 or visit www.royalcornwallmuseum.org.uk