Your Royal Highness, Baroness Brigstocke, Your Worship, Mr Barrett, Mr Irvine, Mr Garner, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be with you today.
When I read about the lives and world travels of Sir Merton and Lady Russell-Cotes, I was impressed indeed, especially by a series of accidental incidents which brought them to Japan. At the same time, they seem to have epitomised the confidence and enterprise that characterised British explorers in Victorian times. They certainly did much to give their compatriots some ideas of what Japan at the time was like and, through their activities in the then newly-formed Japan Society and in numerous other ways, contributed to the friendship between our two nations and peoples that was beginning to develop. Our relations have strengthened enormously over the years, and at the present time never been better.
When the Russell-Cotes returned from their seven-week tour of Japan, they brought back with them more than one hundred cases containing various objects of interest and works of art ? from everyday items which would have had very little value in Japan to pieces of obvious craftsmanship and pedigree. As these extremes are represented in this exhibition, not only can we learn the quintessence of Japanese metalwork but we can also gain an insight into the interests and tastes of middle-class Victorians in the late 19 th century.
Today I was happy to have a chance to see another elephant incense burner and another charger. This does not mean that I own burners and chargers. I only have photo catalogues of a certain collection. Therefore, I have been familiar with chargers made by Komai and elephant incense burners, although the burner in the catalogue was made by Shoami Katsuyoshi, father of Nakagawa Yoshizane.
The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum and similar institutions perform a valuable and often unsung role in educating society about the world's artistic heritage, often on very limited resources. With this observation in mind, I would like to express my appreciation of the painstaking dedication of Museum 's Officer Shaun Garner and his colleagues here in putting together this delightful exhibition, which consists mainly of the items brought back from Japan by the Russell-Cotes together with some pieces added to the collection later. The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and the Victoria & Albert Museum are also to be commended for the support and assistance they have given this venture. I am sure that a fasc inating and enjoyable experience awaits hundreds of thousands of visitors expected to come.
Now, I would like to officially declare the opening of the Exhibition Well Hammered: The Art of Japanese Metalwork.
Thank you very much.
|Detail of plaque by Komai of Kyoto