Apollo Award Winner
Blue lacquer kiseruzutsu with carved wave design.
Rosetsu, late 19th century, length 21.6cm.
During the Meiji period a movement of artists and craftsmen became alarmed by the rapid westernisation of Japan and feared that traditional culture would be lost. Waves symbolised the seas beyond Japan and the implied threat of unwanted outside influences. Furthermore, a devastating tsunami in 1896 caused the loss of twenty-two thousand lives. Newspapers carried photos of the destruction, but as they had none of the tsunami itself they chose instead to reproduce Hokusai’s Kanagawa oki namiura (under the great wave of Kanagawa), created more than 60 years earlier. Hokusai’s image became embedded in national psyche.
Two late 19th century lacquer artists created works with intricately detailed wave designs: firstly Shibata Zeshin, who perfected a technique of combing the thickened wet lacquer, and secondly Rosetsu, a pupil of Shibata Shinsai, who carved his intricate design into rare dark blue lacquer in minute detail. Here Rosetsu has produced lacquer of a deep blue that echoes the Prussian blue hue of Hokusai’s wave. The lacquer is deeply carved, a feat of great technical mastery, and inlaid with tiny beads of silver to represent the drops of spray created by the crashing waves.
Asian Art in London, exhibited at Japan House, 101-111 Kensington High Street, London W8. 24th October to 20th November, 2022