Fredric T. Schneider Gift to Peabody Essex Museum

Major Collection of Japanese cloisonne enamel

By: - May 26, 2022

The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) is pleased to announce that it will receive a generous and inspiring gift of Japanese cloisonné enamels from renowned scholar and collector, Fredric T. Schneider. The collection, which Schneider began assembling in 1993, features approximately 900 works tracing four centuries of cloisonné enamel production. Works include commissions for the Japanese imperial family, pieces for export – among them masterworks exhibited at many International fairs – as well as a group of important cloisonné enamel pieces by contemporary master practitioners. The Schneider Collection significantly expands PEM’s renowned holdings of Japanese art. The announcement of the gift coincides with a public lecture on Japanese art by Midori Oka, which will be held at PEM on June 12, 2022. 

“PEM is honored to become a publicly-accessible site for the appreciation, research, and study of Japanese cloisonné enamels,” said Lynda Roscoe Hartigan, PEM’s Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Executive Director and CEO. “This exceptional collection expands the types of stories, objects and experiences that PEM can share about Japanese art and culture and are so grateful for Fredric Schneider’s generosity and long range vision.”

In 2010, Schneider authored the most comprehensive book to date on the subject – The Art of Japanese Cloisonné Enamel: History, Techniques and Artists, 1600 to the Present. First practiced in Japan in the 17th century, the labor-intensive technique of decorating metal forms with colored enamels reached a pinnacle of technical and artistic excellence during the late 19th and the early 20th centuries. Works in the Schneider Collection demonstrate the full range of techniques employed in cloisonné enamel on diverse forms including vases, boxes, bowls, plates, plaques and incense burners, as well as architectural elements, scholars’ objects, medals and other items of personal adornment, sword fittings, and even a sumo-wrestling judge’s signal fan. Contemporary artists in Japan continue to use cloisonné enamels in innovative and exciting ways and the collection represents many of today’s leading practitioners. Together, works in this collection reflect enamel’s broad role in Japanese material culture and demonstrate the remarkable evolution of technique over the last four centuries. 

“The gift to PEM of Fredric Schneider’s comprehensive collection establishes the museum as an international center for the study and appreciation of Japanese cloisonné enamel. His carefully-curated gift also includes collections of ephemera, photographs, rare books, interviews with Japanese specialists and other research materials, all of which will serve as tremendous resources for future scholars at PEM’s Phillips Library,” noted Karina H. Corrigan, PEM’s Associate Director ?– Collections and H. A. Crosby Forbes Curator of Asian Export Art. 

Selections from the collection will be on display in PEM’s galleries and forthcoming exhibitions and the entire collection will be accessible to researchers online and at PEM’s Collections Center in Rowley, Massachusetts. Generous funding from Schneider will support the acquisition of Japanese cloisonné enamels as well as provide for the Schneider Collection’s long-term study and care.

An extensive, illustrated interview-essay with Fredric T. Schneider will appear in Impressions 43, Part Two (2022), the Journal of the Japanese Art Society of America (