Vases of a Feather A particularly curious object found in the porcelain collection is the so-called Bird Cage Vase, a combination of a vase and a bird cage. It combines two different materials for which Japanese art was especially known: porcelain and lacquer The body of the vase and the elephant handles are made of porcelain, as is the bird sitting in the cage. But the rock that the bird is mounted on is made of lacquered papier-mâché, and the painted background inside the cage is done in lacquer painting as well. This combination was introduced in Japan specifically for export to Europe. Japan was experiencing stiff competition with the superior trading power of China, so they tried to bring everything together and develop splendid decorative work that would fully correspond to the baroque taste in Europe at the time. They found their target with August the Strong: The porcelain collection still holds more than 60 of these Japanese lacquer vases. Except for this one, they are all in storage because even back in the 18th century, the lacquer as an organic material began to come off the ceramic substrate. This means that our treasures are due for a considerable restoration effort.