Tea set

ARTIST / MAKER: Jomei (maker)
DATE: ca. 1880 (made)
PLACE: Japan (made)
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Copper alloy with multi-metal inlay, ivory handles and boxwood finials

This small tea set is decorated with multi-metal and shakudō work. Shakudō is an alloy of gold and copper which can be treated to look like lacquer, while untreated shakudō typically resembles bronze. This technique was historically used in Japan to decorate small ornaments and samurai sword fittings. The handles on this set are made from ivory carved to simulate bamboo, while the intricately decorated finials are made from carved boxwood. Japanese export wares that incorporated different metals into their decoration became extremely fashionable in the West. During the Meiji period, when this tea set was made, Japan took advantage of the new trading links that were being established following the end of the government’s 200-year-old seclusion policy. As a result of these trading links, enthusiasm for Japanese art and crafts, known commonly as Japonisme, became widespread and had a profound effect on Western art and design during the latter half of the 19th century.