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chairs use

Produced during the Meiji Period (1868-1912), these chairs are an excellent example of 19th Century Japanese export furniture, which became a well-established artisan market for Japanese craftsmen after the economic isolationism that dominated the previous Edo era (1603-1868). The Meiji Restoration in 1868 saw the fruition of the internalized intellectual and artistic growth that was fostered for over 200 years during the Edo period under the Tokugawa shogunate. As the Meiji era ushered in an unprecedented level of interaction with Western society, Japanese crafts were eagerly purchased by foreigners and sent abroad as export items.

Likely made for export to Europe in late 1800s, these chairs are an exceptional example of the Shibayama style inlay that was particularly popular with Europeans in the established Meiji era. Unlike the thin wood inlays of marquetry, Shibayama inlay gained its reputation for stylistic protrusions of rich materials such as mother-of-pearl, ivory, and coral. The depth-producing technique acquired its name from the Chinese born artisan who revived the style in the late Edo period in Shibayama, Chiba. The intricacy and richness of the inlays showcase the luxuriousness and technical skill of this style of craft, making it an extremely popular export item.

Specific characteristics in these chairs demonstrate that they were intended to be export pieces; the asymmetrical back, the use of the Chinese Shou symbol of longevity throughout, and the exquisite mother of pearl Shibayama style inlay are all indicative that these pieces were designed to appeal to the stylistic tastes of the 19th Century Western market.

The inlay on the wave-form chair backs depicts classical Japanese motifs of cranes, skylarks and thrushes amidst bamboo, chrysanthemums and mountains in two rosewood panels. The top and bottom rails feature geometric key fretwork in the same asymmetrical wave design, with high relief figural carvings of lucky bats biting forms of the Shou style symbol. The wide set arms are flanked by thick scrolling cloud designs, and the thick ogee edged seat is supported by splayed cabriole legs, terminating in a claw foot. The thick block-framed apron is comprised of lush peaches and peach blossoms, with two bats framing another Shou form medallion.

Each chair measures 36” high, 24” wide, and 20 ½” deep. Currently priced at $2,450 – This week’s special pricing is $1,950 for the pair. These are also available for free no-contact delivery within 50 miles of Ypsilanti!

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