The origin of the goblet and its craftsmen

Assumably Fisscher bought the goblet on his court journey in 1822. As the first basket maker to sign his works, Hayajawa Shôkosai (1897) was born in 1815 (Earle 2008, p. 67), the search for an artist’s signature is expendable. Moreover, van Overmeer Fisscher did not add any hints on manufacturer, manufacturing place or date in his catalogue. Indeed, the intricate workmanship of our chalice points to a skilled artisan, able to work his raw material properly and maybe an heir to a generation old workshop. He must have been conscious of customers’ demand and open to new fashion and shapes, ready to employ new material combinations. But where was he located?

Fortunately, Fisscher’s “Bijdrage to de Kennis van het Japansche Rijk” offers some information. In spring 1822 Fisscher performs alongside Jan Cock Blomhoff (1779-1843), at the time Captain of the Dutch trading post Dejima, the court journey from Nagasaki to Edo (Tokyo), which he describes in detail in this publication. This trip was not only diplomatic in nature, but allowed Fisscher as well as Blomhoff to expand their collections.

For our Goblet especially Hakone region seems likely to be accounted as the origin area. Rich in natural sources, such as forests flush with all kinds of trees and bamboo as well as mountain streams supplying fresh water for the preparation of the raw materials, this area also profits from the relatively short distance to Edo, at the time the shôgun’s residence city.

More than 100 years before Fisscher, in 1690, physician Engelbert Kaempfer (1651-1716) already appreciated the city Fuchû[3] on his court journey to Edo for its well-equipped shops and the reasonable prices for baskets and boxes of woven “reed” and all sorts of lacquered goods (Kaempfer, 1733, p. 360).

Even though Fisscher too praises the quality of manufactured goods in Fuchû, especially “fine wattle and lacquer work such as delicately manufactured baskets, boxes or Japanese equipment” (Fisscher, 1833, p. 300), he can not agree on the price, thus the local merchants come off empty-handed at the end of the day (Fisscher, 1833, p. 300). Still, Forrer, who examined Fisscher’s and other collections of Japanese objects intensively and got acquainted with the personal preferences and focus of the collectors, states that Fisscher “purchased objects here (in Fuchû) despite the high prices” (Forrer, 2000, p. 28). The inventory catalogue of the RMV affirms that assumption ”Fisscher remarks, that the best basketry was to be found at Fuchû, near the Hakone mountain district. It seems most likely that this box for sweets, okashi bako [our goblet], was bought in one of the shops in that town”. It is also thinkable, that Fisscher made an extra stop in Fuchû to buy the goblet on his way back; indeed, he refrains from describing the journey back to Nagasaki in detail.

Nevertheless, Fisscher’s notes do not indicate the place of purchase precisely. Instead only three days later, March 24th in 1822, Fisscher arrives in Hakone and mentions: “It is in this place and this mountains, where the most beautiful objet d’art in lacquer as well as carvings […] are manufactured, and no one can resist the inclination to buy, when entering the stack rooms.” But there was more to come: “a few miles past Hakone one comes to the keen merchants of Hatajuku and later to Yumoto. […] We estimated the prices here cheaper than in Fuchû and bought different mosaic- and also delicately processed Japanese basket- and lacquer works […]” (Fisscher, 1833, p. 302). As both quality and price seem adequate to Fisscher, I assume, that the Hakone Mountains are most probably the origin area of our goblet.

But how comes, that an artisan in an, at first appearance, ostensible remote area as the Hakone Mountains creates an extraordinary shape as the goblet’s? Where did he get his inspiration and are there comparable objects?


Next: Inspiration drawn from nature


[3] Fuchû: Capital of the historical province Suruga, today incorporated in the prefecture Shizuoka


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