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In 1955, the collector Denys Eyre Bower (1905 – 1977) moved into Chiddingstone Castle. He bought the castle as a new home for his antiques business and his personal collections, which he planned to display for the public. He opened the castle to visitors the following year. Two of the rooms were dedicated to his Japanese collection, which consists in large part of urushi lacquerwares.

In the late 19th century, Japanese art flooded into the UK following the ‘opening’ of Japan to trade with the West. By the time Bower began collecting, the fascination with Japanese art in Europe had begun to fade. Bower followed his personal interest and was happy to buy against the trend. The availability of urushi lacquerwares on the market in the UK, combined with Bower’s eye for quality and rarity, enabled him to build an important collection.

This talk will explore why Bower collected Japanese urushi lacquerwares, influences on his collecting, and what informed his ability to identify and assign value. The aim is to determine what Bower understood about his collection and how he displayed it for his visitors. The archive of notes, letters, photographs, labels, and books at the castle gives us an insight into the way in which the urushi lacquerwares were redefined and recontextualised as part of Bower’s collections.
Naomi Collick has worked as the Curator at Chiddingstone Castle in Kent since 2018. The castle is a historic house and museum which holds the Buddhist, Japanese, Stuart and Jacobite, and Ancient Egyptian collections of the last private owner. She is a graduate of Japanese Studies at the University of Oxford and the History of Art and Archaeology of East Asia at SOAS. Her interests are Japanese art from the Edo and Meiji periods, and the display of Buddhist art in museums.

All welcome- but booking is required.