Dutch in demand

18th November 2021

A rare Japanese lacquer cabinet relating to the Dutch East India Company in the 17th century has sold for over £130,000 at auction.

The metre high cabinet and stand (lot 1046) was included in the Japanese Works of Art auction at Woolley and Wallis in Salisbury and was unusually decorated with scenes of Dutch life on the island of Dejima.

“The Dutch were in a unique position in 17th century Japan, being the only Europeans who were allowed to trade there,” explained Japanese specialist, Alex Aguilar. “Even so, they were exiled to Dejima, limited to a population of 20 people and only allowed to venture onto the mainland at certain times.”

The black rectangular cabinet was richly decorated in gilt, silver and brown with elaborate scenes of figures, boats and pagodas in an extensive landscape. The double doors opened to reveal eight drawers and two smaller cupboards.

This was the first time the cabinet had been on the open market in over 70 years, having been consigned from a private collection in Norfolk. Previously the cabinet had been acquired by Joseph Barclay, one of the wealthiest members of the Barclay banking dynasty who built a holiday home in Cromer in the 19th century.

“The strong provenance combined with the rarity of the cabinet’s subject matter made it extremely interesting to collectors,” continued Aguilar. “The Dutch Royal Collection includes a similar pair and there is little doubt that this example was commissioned either for the Dutch nobility or for a high ranking official in the East India Company.”

The cabinet sold to a Dutch dealer for £131,250, far exceeding its starting price of £40,000.

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