CHAPTER IV

CONCLUSION

CONCLUSION



During the preparation of this research, I realised that I had chosen an extremely broad topic for my dissertation. When I started the research about eleven months ago, I knew little about this specific area, and assumed that it would not be very difficult to discuss the trade, actual objects, and the social context of Japanese export furniture over a 500 year period. In addition, I chose to compare specific types of Japanese objects with Western furniture which had received considerable influence from such Japanese furniture. Nevertheless, it was much harder than I expected to find specific information. In particular, Chapter IV is the main area where no extensive research had previously been done. Therefore, many of the arguments and judgements in this section are based on my own observations.
With regard to the dating of Meiji lacquer furniture, I have concentrated on entire shapes of furniture rather than on the style of lacquer painting. This is because there were no obvious stylistic changes in the techniques of lacquer painting (in relation to furniture) over forty-five years period. I have concluded that the most common tall and decorative display cabinets emerged in the 1880s and that production continued well into the twentieth century, with later pieces typically being of the lower quality.
Meanwhile, the dating of marquetry and parquetry furniture was solely based on parquetry patterns, from the earlier ranyosegi to the later mechanical and continuous pattern. However, considering the fact that the majority of export pieces were produced after the latter emerged towards the end of 1870s, it may not be a very useful criterion for the dating of Meiji export furniture. Because the output of marquetry and parquetry furniture was much smaller than that of lacquer furniture, I could not locate enough pieces to make a good chronological analysis based on shapes of furniture. Nevertheless, marquetry and parquetry furniture seems to have been produced over quite a short period and had all but disappeared by 1900. Therefore, any attempt to make a precise dating of these pieces is probably not appropriate. Instead, entire designs and forms of furniture ó those precisely adopting Western shapes and others ó helped me to identify production centres, and I concluded that elaborate large marquetry and parquetry furniture was mainly produced in Shizuoka rather than Hakone.
With regard to carved furniture, I have divided it into three categories, the earlier pieces produced during the 1870s a and 1880s, Hamamono carved furniture manufactured during the 1890s and the 1910s, and Yamanakaís furniture produced after 1905. I described the basic characteristics of each category by introducing the most common pieces of each category. Carved wood furniture was also a short-lived Meiji craft. It had emerged as a distinct form around 1890 when Hamamono emerged, and almost vanished just after the end of the Meiji period.
This situation was very similar to that of cloisonnÈ enamel: its quality declined significantly in the 1910s and soon disappeared from the main stage. In addition, furniture decorated with cloisonnÈ panels was quite rare, and thus, I mentioned the stylistic change of cloisonnÈ enamel only briefly and kept this section very simple and concise.
The identification of export furniture makers was particularly problematic. There were a huge number of producers existing in the Meiji era ó especially producers of lacquer. Moreover, the production was done by a considerable number of anonymous craftsmen who worked collaboratively, and naturally most of them were not regarded as an artist. Further research is needed into named individual craftsmen and workshops.
When Mortimer Menpes boasted about his Japanese-inspired mansion erected in Chelsea at the end of the nineteenth century, he said All is Japanese but not the Japan of the curio dealer. In this sense, most items of Meiji export furniture I have presented in this paper fall in this curio shop category. They are excessively decorated hybrid objects. Many Japanese today never recognise them as Japanese products, not only because little survives in Japan but also because their appearance is not in accordance with Japanese aesthetic. To me, however, Meiji export furniture is extremely interesting, not so much from its craftsmanship and aesthetic but more from the historical view point. The extraordinary situation in the Meiji era led the Japanese to produce such furniture, and simultaneously, the craze for Japanese art in the West made people purchase these objects. I hope that my research helps more people to understand the background information of Meiji export furniture and make them feel in the same way I do.

© Yumiko Yamamori 1999

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Contents
Chapter I - Introduction
Chapter II - Pre-Meiji Export Furniture
Chapter III - Social Context in the Meiji Era
Chapter IV - Meiji Export Furniture
Chapter V - Conclusions
Appendix - Footnotes
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