The technique of creating lacquer originated in Japan in the 1680s and it was a slow and demanding process which required great skill. Some of the finest lacquer had up to thirty separate layers and was confined to painted or raised surfaces of gold on a black or red ground. This type was retained by the Japanese for their own use and examples considered to be inferior in quality were brought to Europe in the 1730s by the Dutch. Japanese lacquer became extremely fashionable at the French Court as early as in the 1730s and Parisian craftsmen copied the Japanese technique for use on works of art made locally. These artists must have had access to Japanese originals in the collections of the very few extremely wealthy Parisians able to afford such rare and exotic items.
Hanami, the festival depicted on the cover of the present box, is the Japanese tradition of enjoying the beauty of flowers, typically cherry blossoms. The festival occurs between the end of March to early May and lasts only a few weeks.