The magnificent drop-fronted cabinet is in the style that was favoured for export to Europe from around 1600 to 1800. The lock is of Western form but the cabinet is decorated all over with purely Buddhist images, motifs, and texts. It must have been made for a devout Buddhist as, following the downfall of the samurai government in 1867 with whom Buddhism had been closely linked, there was a strong move to eradicate Buddhism in Japan and, as a consequence, many Buddhist temples were destroyed and their treasures sold off to foreigners.
The exterior of the cabinet has a fine low-relief lacquer design of a lotus pool; the Buddhist imagery here is simple and understated. The details of the lotus are picked out in silver, and large areas of gold foil create a shimmering pattern on the leaves. The cabinet has three drawers with scattered lotus leaves in a style which harks back to the Buddhist-influenced lacquer of the 13th century. The most striking feature of the cabinet is the inside of the drop front which depicts the Bodhisattva Kannon on a lotus leaf with text from the Heart Sutra. Deriving from Mahayana Buddhism, the Heart Sutra has long been one of Japan’s most popular sutras and is important to the Shingon Buddhist sect.
Sir Ratan Tata Art Collection
Lacquered wood with gold and silver foil decoration
27.3 x 22 cm