Historical Background


Lacquer as a decorative and civilizing art, was developed in China, where the properties of the Rhus tree were first discovered and put to use. The famous bowl dating from around 4000-5000 B.C. discovered in Che-chiang province is regarded as the oldest extant piece of lacquer-ware (UNESCO). But the recent discovery of a fossilized Rhus tree in Japan, dating 12000 B.C., pulled the presence of lacquers further back.

Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma and India are countries where the tradition of lacquers is very well established. But the origin of the art is with certainty China.

In the Americas some accounts suggest an earlier introduction by the Buddhist monk, Hui Sheng, who in 458 AD led a group of monks on a voyage to the land of cactus (Mexico?). Hui Shen returned to China 41 years later, and reported his findings to the Xiao kingdom of the Qi state. Other speculations build a case for the Chinese reaching the west coast of Mexico in the 7th century AD, but there appear to be no scholarly consensus on China’s contact with Pre-Columbian civilizations.

In the Americas, only two lacquered art expressions exist, one in the region where the Aztecs reigned, called MAQUE, and the other in the northern Andean region of Inca influence, called BARNIZ DE PASTO (MOPA MOPA). Both lacquers differ from the oriental lacquers in the harvesting methodologies and the source of the raw materials.

In the case of MAQUE, the principal ingredient (animal) is the grease extracted from the aje insect (Coccus laccá, or Coccus-axin).

In the case of BARNIZ DE PASTO, the locals harvest the leaf bud of the MOPA MOPA tree (eleagia pastoensis mora) that grows in the Amazonian region of the Putumayo. The resin is extracted by boiling, these buds, to produce raw lacquer, a natural product with extraordinary properties. After the removal of small residues attached to the material, it is ready to be dyed using mineral powders and or vegetal anilines. Then the dyed hot resin is stretched by the barnizador using hands and lips until a thin sheet is acquired. In its processed form this unique lacquer which is adherent and opaque can be used in a variety of applications: as an adhesive, impregnator, durable preservative and protective water resistant coating. Besides these features, which are important when working with wood, lacquers also offer the decisive benefit of being glossy and enhancing the iridescence of colors. It is this that ideally suits the artist, who with incredible mastery decorate principally wood carvings, but also clay figures and pottery, as well as glass, the possibilities for decoration are infinite. The decorative process is much like gold filling technique, the colorful designs are created by cutting the dyed sheets previously applied over the surface of the selected object to be decorated. Once the decorative process is finished, the resin fragments are re-melted over the surface with the application of radiated heat. After a final very fine sanding of the object, the colored patterns are protected with the application of a protective substance of selected brilliance, flat or gloss. Because not only the polished lacquer surface possesses an aesthetic value, but its lovely soft smoothness is also highly pleasing to the sense of touch, and this imparts a tactile quality to the lacquered work.

So…, after this brief account about our product, it is our privilege to offer such beauty to your consideration. Worldwide ancient art expressions are few, and in our case we can guaranteed that if you became an owner of a mastery elaborated MOPA MOPA piece, the article will be in your and your loved one hands forever, pouring beauty in any surrounding you choose.