Suzuribako (box for writing equipment)

Artist: Kajikawa
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 19th century
H x W x D: 4.1 x 17.7 x 24.1 cm (1 5/8 x 6 15/16 x 9 1/2 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Writing box (suzuribako)

Bodhidharma, Buddhism, Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, Praying Goblin, Spear Bearer, Thunder God and Drum, ukiyo-e, umbrella, Wisteria Maiden, writing, WWII-era provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable

Legendary and theatrical references abound in the decoration of the cover of this lacquer box for an inkstone, a water dropper, and writing brushes. The Wisteria Maiden (Fuji Musume), whose silvery facial features have oxidized to bluish black, is a common subject of Otsu-e, a type of folk painting sold in the town of Otsu near Lake Biwa. In nineteenth-century kabuki, the Wisteria Maiden became the focus of a dance expressing unrequited love to the vocal and instrumental music of a nagauta (literally, "long song"). With her is a praying demon, another figure often seen in Otsu-e. The Thunder God rushes down from above, beating his ring of drums as the couple takes shelter from a rainstorm. The ornate pictorial decoration of this box was created by an artist who had mastered maki-e techniques, which employ powders and particles of gold and other material to create intricate designs.

Published References
  • Ann Yonemura. Japanese Lacquer. Washington, 1979. cat. 24, p. 50.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
SI Usage Statement

Usage conditions apply

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.