Japanese Lacquer Imperial Presentation Box

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.

Maker(s)
Artist: Akatsuka Jitoku 赤塚自得 (1871-1936)
Historical period(s)
Taisho era, early 20th century, before 1919
Medium
Lacquer on wood with gold maki-e and mother of pearl inlay with silver rim mounts
Dimensions
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)
Geography
Japan, Tokyo
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Freer Gallery of Art
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1997.17a-e
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Container, Lacquer
Type

Box

Keywords
chrysanthemum, iridescence, Japan, Taisho era (1912 - 1926), WWII-era provenance
Provenance

From 1997
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased at auction, Christie's, New York, Sale No. 8732, September 17, 1997, lot no. 230 [1]

Notes:

[1] See Curatorial Note 4, Duley, October 6, 1997, in the object record.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Christie's (New York)

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.

Inscription(s)

1. (Ann Yonemura, 10 September 1997) The artist, Akatsuka Jitoku, is identified by a signature and seal written in gold on the interior of the lid.
A paper label on the underside of the wood storage box lid is inscribed: "gohairyo (presented) Taisho 8, first month, fifth day (January 5, 1919)."

Published References
  • Thomas Lawton, Thomas W. Lentz. Beyond the Legacy: Anniversary Acquisitions for the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. vol. 1 Washington, 1998. pp. 332-333.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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