Rimpa design lacquer shelf


Lacquer on wood
signed Nagata Yūji
Edo period, 18th Century

Nagata Yūji whose artist’s names were Seisei-shi 青々子, Masatoki 方祝 was a lacquer master who lived in Kyoto in the 18th century Edo period. His name can be found in the anthology of lacquer masters’ stories Makie-shi den (published in the mid-19th century). He always signed his name on his work, which is rather rare for a lacquer worker. It shows his confidence and assurance on his quality of work.As his pseudonyms show, his dedicated to Rimpa School (Seisei 青々 and Masatoki 方祝 are the names which the grand figure of Rimpa School Ogata Kōrin used). Even Ogata Kōrin had already passed away when Nagata Yūji started his career, he designated himself as an apprentice of Kōrin.

This shelf carries Yatsuhashi 八橋 design. Yatsuhashi is a well-known beauty spot for iris flowers (kakitsubata) with eight bridges (Yatsuhashi). It appears in the tale of Ise (9-10C) that the main character Ariwara no Narihira came down there and made a poem referring to the name of Yatsuhashi. Ogata Kōrin took it as a poetic motif and created the dramatic design of Yatsuhashi, on two screens (one is in Nezu Museum and the other is in Metropolitan Museum of Art). This renowned design was taken by the Rimpa style followers.

The iris flowers are raden inlay of mother-of-pearl, its leaves are tin plate and gold maki-e. The design continues to the side, the sliding doors. We can find his signature Seisei-shi 青々子 on the right side door.