Japanese Lacquer Imperial Presentation Box

Detail of a pattern
Image 1 of 1

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At A Glance

  • Period

    early 20th century, before 1919
  • Geography

    Tokyo, Japan
  • Material

    Lacquer on wood with gold maki-e and mother of pearl inlay with silver rim mounts
  • Dimension

    H x W x D: 11.6 x 19.9 x 26.4 cm (4 9/16 x 7 13/16 x 10 3/8 in)
  • Accession Number



Object Details

  • Artist

    Akatsuka Jitoku 赤塚自得 (1871-1936)
  • Description

    Of rectangular shape with round corners decorated on the lid and sides with flowering waterplants and a swirling stream below an imperial sixteen-petal chrysanthemum medallion, the blossoms inlaid in mother-of-pearl with gold lacquer details and the stems and leaves of variegated gold takamaki-e applied with kimpun, the ripples of the stream in low-relief colored gold takamaki-e and togidashi with black lacquer, nashiji and okibirame accents, the medallion kinji and the ground roiro and nashiji, the interior dense yellow nashiji and the base nashiji, the mounts silver, signed in gold lacquer on the underside of the lid; in wood storage box inscribed on a paper label on the underside of the lid gohairyo (presented) January 5, 1919 (Taisho 8.1.5)
    The decoration of the box consists of flowering water plants (sagittaria), executed in low-relief maki-e, a Japanese technique employing sprinkled and applied gold in the form of fine powder, particles, and leaf. The flowers are shaped from mother-of-pearl and inlaid in a technique known as raden. Both methods of lacquer decoration were in use in Japan by the mid-eighth century and are documented by objects in the Shosoin imperial repository which houses the possessions of Emperor Shomu.
    The design reflects fidelity to traditional Japanese design. The asymmetrical composition continues seamlessly over all the visible surfaces.This concept developed in lacquer design as early as the Heian period (794--1185), and was given new vitality by the innovative designs of the Kyoto artists, Koetsu (1558--1637) and Korin (1658--1716). The legacy of their lacquer designs is reflected in the decoration of this box, which combines superb technique with a subtle and sensitive approach to composition. Even the perfectly centered imperial chrysanthemum crest is integrated into the overall composition as if it represented a full moon. The extraordinary quality of the decoration is revealed in such details as the subtly varied colors reflected from the inlaid shell, and the delicate tonalities of the gold decoration, which also reflects iridescent tones in changing light.
  • Previous custodian or owner

    Christie's (New York)
  • Provenance

    From 1997
    Freer Gallery of Art, purchased at auction, Christie's, New York, Sale No. 8732, September 17, 1997, lot no. 230 [1]
    [1] See Curatorial Note 4, Duley, October 6, 1997, in the object record.
  • Origin

    Tokyo, Japan
  • Credit Line

    Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Freer Gallery of Art
  • Type

  • Restrictions and Rights

    Usage Conditions Apply

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