Past Exhibitions

Lacquered Tablewares for the Elegant Banquet
December 15, 2015 - January 31, 2016

In the past, before plastic and aluminum tableware existed, lightweight yet sturdy wood was the material of choice for lunch boxes, bowls, beverage containers and other utensils.

In wealthy households, sets of lacquered and beautifully decorated wooden tableware were used to make meals more splendid when important guests visited or when families and friends gathered for special occasions such as cherry blossom viewings or outings to the theater. A variety of techniques were employed to make these, including urushi-e (painting designs with lacquer), maki-e (further decorating the lacquer by affixing powdered gold), haku-e (applying gold leaf), mitsuda-e (an oil painting technique), and raden (inlaying seashell), with various designs depending on the season or occasion.

It is unfortunate that we cannot present these pieces as they would have been enjoyed, with an array of delicious food on them, but we hope that you will imagine that part for yourself, envision what a banquet set with this tableware might have looked like, and feast your eyes on these items that once graced people’s tables and picnic blankets.

A Message to Museum Visitors

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