Small Sutra Table
Small Sutra Table

Small Sutra Table

Japanese (Japanese)
17th century
Lacquered wood, shell
: 21 1/2 x 11 x 6 in. (54.61 x 27.94 x 15.24 cm)
Credit Line
Gift of David Kamansky and Gerald Wheaton
Object Number

Asian lacquer is derived from the sap of the tree Toxicodendron vernicifluum. The sap contains urushiol, a mixture of phenols and proteins suspended in water. When the sap is refined and applied in thin coats to objects made of other materials such as wood, leather or cloth, the phenols oxidize and polymerize creating a highly durable surface that protects the objects against damage from extreme temperatures, damp rot and insects. Lacquer can be processed to produce different colors and levels of gloss, creating aesthetic possibilities that artists in Asia have been exploring for more than two thousand years.