Description & Technical information

This rectangular plaque is lacquered in black on a copper ground with details decorated in gold. It depicts Velabro, the strip of land between the Tiber and the Palatine Hill, in Rome, Italy.
The Japanese artists 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. The etching copied for this lacquered plaque is plate 95, entitled Spiaggia verso la Bocca della Verità (“Beach Towards the Mouth of Truth”) from Vasi’s fifth book I Ponti e gli edifici sul Tevere (“The Bridges and the Buildings on the Tiber”) which was published in 1754. Vasi named the etching after Bocca della Verità, a round relief portraying a human face with an open mouth which is situated in the portico of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) the ruin of Ponte Palatino (better known as Ponte Emilio or Ponte Rotto); 2) Palazzo di Pilato; 3) Monte Palatino; 4) S. Maria del Sole (Tempio di Vesta); 5) Discharge point of Cloaca Massima; and 6) S. Maria in Cosmedin.
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 of Rome in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (Accession Number: RBK 1960-29) showing a street 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, Decorated in gold
Dimensions: 37 x 54 cm (14⁵/₈ x 21¹/₄ 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