L door: mallard at center behind reeds

Sliding Doors with Ducks and Reeds [left of a pair], second half 19th century


Shibata Zeshin was one of the few artists widely recognized for his paintings on silk and paper and his innovative mastery of lacquering techniques and design. Early in his life Zeshin was apprenticed to the lacquer workshop of Koma Kansai II (1766–1835), who produced lacquerware for the ruling elite, as well as the wealthy merchant class. Yet Zeshin left at 16 to study painting. Zeshin’s mastery of both art forms is evident on this sliding door, with the lacquer skillfully fashioned to create a scene as evocative as an ink painting. The ducks are decorated in black and colored lacquers with gold and silver powders and shell inlays for the subtle iridescence of birds’ feathers. Using the technique of direct lacquering (kiji nuri), wherein the lacquer design is applied directly to the substrate, Zeshin deftly utilizes the grain of the wood to guide the verticality of the composition, and gently evoke the rippling of water.

Sliding Doors with Ducks and Reeds [left of a pair]
Artist Life
1807 - 1891
Accession Number
Curator Approved

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L door: mallard at center behind reeds