Box for writing instruments (suzuribako)

Suzuribako Inkstone box with a black lacquer ground to which gold dust has been sparsely applied and decorated in hirame and multicolored togidashi.

Inside contains two trays, one with a silver mizuire and socket and suzuri.

Historical period(s)
Edo period or Meiji era, 19th century
Medium
Lacquer, gold, silver, and pigments, wood, silver water dropper
Dimensions
H x W x D: 4.9 x 22.9 x 25.1 cm (1 15/16 x 9 x 9 7/8 in)
Geography
Japan
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1944.24a-h
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Container, Lacquer
Type

Inkstone box (suzuribako)

Keywords
Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, maple tree, Meiji era (1868 - 1912), writing, WWII-era provenance
Provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable
Description

Suzuribako Inkstone box with a black lacquer ground to which gold dust has been sparsely applied and decorated in hirame and multicolored togidashi.

Inside contains two trays, one with a silver mizuire and socket and suzuri.

Label

The main decoration of this inkstone case is a group of tanzaku, or decorated paper strips for writing poetry, which are tied to a broken branch of maple. The subject is appropriate for a case to contain an inkstone, solid ink, a silver water-dropper and brushes for writing.  It recalls the Japanese custom of presenting poems together with a flower or branch of a plant appropriate to the season. The autumn theme is continued inside the box, with autumn plants including aster, bush clover, and patrinia ominaeshi; the water dropper has a maple leaf motif.

The entire design is executed in sprinkled gold particles and powders of gold and colored lacquers. After completion of the decoration, which requires many superimposed layers, the hard surface is polished with charcoal and other mild abrasives to form a perfectly smooth surface. Japanese lacquers decorated with sprinkled powders of gold,silver, charcoal, or colored lacquers achieve finer and more complex decorative effects than are possible through painting the colored lacquers directly on the surface.

Published References
  • Alexander G. Mosle, Henri L. Joly. Japanese Works of Art: Armour, Weapons, Sword-fittings, Lacquer, Pictures, Textiles, Color-prints selected from the Mosle Collection. 2 vols. Leipzig. cat. 1697, vol. 2: pl. XVIII.
  • Alexander G. Mosle. The Mosle Collection: Descriptive Catalogue... Leipzig. cat. 1697, vol. 2: p. 39.
  • Ann Yonemura. Japanese Lacquer. Washington, 1979. cat. 23, p. 48.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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