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Rendering the Surface: Representing Lacquerware in Early Modern European Paintings

The art of lacquer involves a glue-like material applied in layers to the surface of objects to make them visually dazzling. From the early sixteenth century, lacquerwares made in Asia were increasingly brought to Europe and highly valued for their quality. Later they were also included in European paintings. How did artists choose to represent this precious and mysterious material? In this blog post, Cheng He shows that a liquid substance like lacquer could be expressed on canvas with different emphases. It was at the same time assimilated into different genres and contexts in paintings, which conversely enriched the cultural meanings of lacquer.