Open lecture | Samuel Luterbacher

“A Universal Art”: Iberian taste and reception of Japanese Lacquer In the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

Samuel Luterbacher | Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA), Washington D.C.


13 dez., 16h – 18h
Sala multiusos 3, edifício I&D/NOVA FCSH, piso 4


In response to the arrival of Iberian traders and missionaries on the Japanese archipelago, local craftsmen developed a type of lacquer for European export, referred to in scholarship as Nanban lacquerware. They adapted traditional techniques to produce chests, writing desks, reliquaries and oratories for this new peripatetic clientele. Japanese lacquerers adapted forms and techniques to suit Iberian tastes and perceptions of their art, emphasizing certain light-reflective surface effects over others. In response, the authors of early Iberian reports on lacquer attempted to integrate such foreign craft knowledge within their own artistic epistemologies. They especially valued lacquer for its ornamental splendor and ability to bind and carry precious luminous materials. The very portability of such lacquered objects engendered new realms of artistic experimentation. Like the layered quality of lacquer itself, these mobile works served as vehicles of material assemblage and hermeneutic accumulation. This lecture explores the assimilation of East Asian lacquered objects within the Iberian world, treating the physical and ontological transformations that occurred as they travelled throughout the vast Iberian mercantile empire.


Samuel Luterbacher

Samuel Luterbacher







Samuel Luterbacher is a current PhD candidate at Yale University in the department of Art History. His dissertation focuses on the collection and use of Japanese export lacquer in the Spanish and Portuguese empires and the larger impact of East Asian lacquer on Western artistic practice and theory. He is a current Andrew W. Mellon  Predoctoral Dissertation Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA) in Washington D.C. for 2018-2020.
He’s also a visiting researcher at the Institute of Art History at Universidade NOVA de Lisboa for the 2018 fall semester.