Pullman Gallery

Alfred Dunhill ‘Namiki’ enamel lighter, 1930s

Price Code: SOLD

Reference: 6375

‘Namiki’ table lighter in ‘Giant’ table size, with chrome-plated hardware, with a glossy black lacquer background, with a typical Japanese scene in gold painted to the front, and an eggplant and a grasshopper in gold to the rear. Marked Dunhill, Made in England, with patent number 143752 to the base. English, circa 1930s. With early external snuffer-arm spring, and artist’s signature in gold. The Japanese word for eggplant is ‘Nasu’, and the symbolism in Japanese culture of ‘Nasu’ is to achieve greatness.

Height: 10 cm
Length: 8 cm

Notes: The decoration to the bodies of these table lighters is created using the very skilled lacquer technique known as maki-e (translated as ‘sprinkled picture’). This method of decoration started in Japan in the Heian period (794–1185 AD), where layers of wet lacquer are dusted with precious metal powders to create patterns or images, often using very delicate, fine brushes. The lacquer dries before another layer of powder and lacquer is applied, and so on, until the desired depth of detail and shine is reached. The Namiki factory, a name synonymous with this style of decoration, was founded in Tokyo and resurrected this ancient technique, as a means of decorating their patented lacquered fountain pens.

In the 1920s, Clement Court, the manager of the Alfred Dunhill boutique in Paris, was so captivated by this delicate and clearly luxurious technique, he sought to obtain the worldwide distribution rights to Namiki and their skill in the maki-e technique, leading to the creation of the ‘Dunhill-Namiki’ fountain pen, the most sought after and valuable fountain pen in the world. These Dunhill ‘Giant’ table lighters are extremely scarce – indeed we have never owned an example before – and are from a renowned collection that we were fortunate enough to acquire recently.

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