Water Pitcher. Wood; lacquerwork. Early 19th century, Japan. NationalMuseum of Ethnology, Leiden, the Netherlands . The extreme simplicity of this pitcher, with, as seen above, hardly any specific treatment nor any adornment, results in something which even today strikes us as a perfect design. Seemingly not misplaced in some exhibition of contemporary Scandinavian design, yet, it dates back from the early decades of the nineteenth century. It is, I would say, that even today, impossible to improve on this red-lacquered water pitcher. The manufacturing and execution are built on a tradition of several centuries: the basic shape consists in a plywood structure to which a wooden handle and spout are attached. This construction is then covered with many layers of lacquer, made from the sap of the lacquer tree, the Rhus vernicifera. Adding green vitriol or acetous ferric oxide to the purified lacquer produces the common black, applied to the inside of the pitcher. The red lacquer used on the outside derives from adding cinnabar or, more likely in this case, colcothar, benigara. In both the black and the red, the lustre of it depends on the quality of the purified raw lacquer. Text by Prof. Matthi Forrer, curator Japanese arts, Leiden.