Description & Technical information

This lavishly decorated rectangular plaque is lacquered in black on a copper ground and detailed in gold. It depicts two nunneries belonging to the Dominican order in Rome, located in Monte Magnanapoli, the southern part of the Quirinal Hill, including The Church of Santi Domenico e Sisto and Santa Caterina a Magnanapoli.
Interestingly, the Japanese artists appear to have copied an engraving by the Sicilian-born printmaker and architect Giuseppe Vasi who published Sulle magnificenze di Roma Antica e Moderna (“On the Magnificence of Ancient and Modern Rome”), which included ten books of etchings showing the monuments of Rome. Specifically, the etching copied for this plaque is plate 149, entitled Monastero e Chiesa dei SS Domenico, e Sisto, e quello di S.Cat.da Siena delle Suore Domenicane a Monte Magnanapoli, from Vasi’s eighth book, I Monasterj e conservatori di donne (1758). In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) the entrance to Villa Aldobrandini; 2) the street leading to S. Maria Maggiore (via S. Lorenzo in Panisperna); 3) the street leading to Monte Cavallo (Quirinal); 4) SS. Domenico e Sisto; and 5) S. Caterina da Siena.
Japanese plaques dating to the late eighteenth century were often made with similar dimensions to this piece and showed famous cityscapes or buildings outside of Japan. There is an unusual variation in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (Accession Number: RBK 1960-29) showing a street scene in Rome with a makie border on the top, right and left, the caption written in gold lacquer below.1

Period:  Late 18th century
Origin:  Japan
Medium: Plaque
Dimensions: 37.5 x 53 cm (14³/₄ x 20⁷/₈ inches)
Literature: Footnotes
1. Oliver Impey and Christian Jörg. 2005. Japanese Export Lacquer, 1580-1850. Amsterdam: Hotei Publishing. p.54, ill.73. 

Categories: Oriental and Asian Art