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Japanese Enamels: The Seven Treasures
Cloisonné from the V&A and the Edwin Davies Gift

14 June 2011 - 19 August 2012



The characters used for Shippo, the Japanese term for enamels, are a reference to the Seven Treasures mentioned in Buddhist texts. The Japanese applied this term to the rich colours found on Chinese enamels and to those made later by Japanese craftsmen.


The art of cloisonné enamelling was, following the ‘reopening’ of the country in the 1850s, one of Japan’s most successful forms of manufacture and export of the late 19th century. The peak of artistic and technological sophistication was between 1880 and 1910, a period referred to as the ‘Golden Age’, and a time when the taste for Japan in the West was at its height and museums were avidly acquiring Japanese art from dealers and international exhibitions.


The combining of the V&A’s historical collection of Japanese enamels (including pieces from the Paris International Exposition of 1867, the earliest documented examples of Japanese cloisonné enamels in any world collection) with the recent Edwin Davies Gift of cloisonné enamels now enables us to present a rounded picture of one of Japan’s most exquisite art forms to a wider national and international audience.

Vase_Nagoya, mark of Hayashi Kodenji, c.1880-90

Bowl, Unsigned, Nagoya, 1926-90

The display includes over one hundred objects ranging from elegant inlaid metalwork of the late 17th century through the Golden Age and into the 20th century.  The V&A collection of cloisonné enamels is the largest and most comprehensive in any world museum outside of the USA. It includes early examples from the renaissance of Japanese enamelling in the 1840s; the experimental works of the 1850s and 1860s and the rise of master artists such as Hayashi Kodenji, Namikawa Yasuyuki of Kyoto, Namikawa Sosuke of Tokyo and the output of the creative and innovative Ando Cloisonné Company of Nagoya.


Thanks to Mr Davies’ generosity the V&A is now able to research and expand its collection of Japanese enamels and, following the display at the V&A, a selection of the Museum’s Japanese enamels will tour to other museums throughout the UK.


The Victoria & Albert Museum