AN EXTREMELY RARE JAPANESE GLASS TELESCOPE WITH LACQUERED LEATHER CASE
Edo period, late 18th/early 19th century
The telescope is decorated in various colours and gilt with flowers, foliage and geometric designs over and beneath the glass that is finely wheel-engraved, the glass sections separated by silverwork and copper rims, the cylindrical case of lacquered leather and paper is impressed with European style ornaments and applied with gold and lacquer.
Length of telescope: 56.7 cm
Length of case: 68.3 cm
Suntory Museum of Art, exhibition catalogue Japanese glass: Stylish vessels, playful shapes, Tokyo, 2010, no. 18 (ill.)
Suntory Museum of Art, Japanese glass: Stylish vessels, playful shapes, 27 March - 23 May 2010
It is believed that the telescope was first imported to Japan as a gift from King James I (1566-1625) in 1613 to the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616) who made well use of his telescope during his battles. Since then many of the country rulers asked the representatives of the Dutch East India Company on Dechima for telescopes as tributes. Sometime after the seclusion policy was executed in 1641, the making of telescopes started in Japan, mainly in Nagasaki where the Dutch had their factory on the island of Deshima. The best-known opticians during the Edo Period were Mori Nizaemon (1673-1754) of Nagasaki and Iwahashi Zenbei (1756-1811) of Osaka.