After the Meiji restoration, traditional Japanese craftsmanship was preserved even though the rest of the nation was modernised very rapidly. Through world exhibitions, the Japanese sold their wares to the west to bring in hard currency -- they even let a westerner choose which objects would be on display. Some professor has acquired a collection of over 2000 of such Meiji-era artefacts, and the exhibition (which had its last day today) showed a sample of that.
It is really hard to describe how beautiful some of the things on display were. There were things that had been made really detailed with lots of fiddly bits. But there were also things that had this simple, straight, pure beauty -- and only when you looked closer did you see the intricate details.
There were lots of things decorated with cloisonné enamel -- a technique afmetalsmith uses, which is why I am familiar with the basics. At first I couldn't believe it was actual enamel, so fine and detailed were the works, and so rich in color. There was an embroidered silk tapestry, which simply showed the sea -- but because of the threading in the silk, it was as if the waves actually moved when you looked at it. There was a document box wich showed a multitude of golden dragonflies, made with cloisonné enamel. There were silver vases enameld in rich, deep colors.
I am really glad we took the time to see this exhibition. And I am jealous of a guy who could collect 2000 of these things. If I had a collection like that, I'd never leave the house. Seriously.