Ceremonial Palanquin (Norimono)

Historical period(s)
Edo period, 1856
Lacquer and gold on wood; interior paintings: ink, color and gold on paper; blinds: bamboo and silk
H x W x D: 128.9 x 477.6 x 96.8 cm (50 3/4 x 188 x 38 1/8 in)
Credit Line
Purchase -- Smithsonian Collections Acquisition Program
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Lacquer, Tool and Equipment


Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, marriage, WWII-era provenance

Sale, Sotheby's, London, October 31, 1984, lot no. 490 [1]

To 1985
Donald Weinman, Sands Point, New York, to 1985

From 1985
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, purchased from Donald Weinman in 1985


[1] According to Provenance Remark 1 in the object record.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Donald Weinman


This palanquin was made for the wedding procession of the bride of a daimyo, or landholding warrior lord, who belonged to the Tokugawa family, relatives of the shoguns who ruled Japan from 1603 to 1867.

Of all palanquins, the most beautiful are the norimono that were commissioned for the wedding processions of daimyo, the class of warrior lords to which the shogun himself belonged. The procession of the bride to her husband's house intentionally displayed the wealth and power of the two families to be joined in marriage. On her journey which could be a few miles or several hundred, the bride was accompanied by a retinue bearing her dowry of lacquered furniture, clothing, and heirlooms, all of which were carried in lacquered chests decorated to math her palanquin.

This wedding palanquin has the shape and decor typical of those made for daimyo families of high status during the Edo period (1615-1868). Its carrying beam, about five meters long, would have required three bearers in front and three in back. The passenger compartment is entered through sliding doors; panels on the roof fold back to facilitate boarding. The slatted windows, covered with silk, admit diffuse light and can be closed from the inside with sliding lacquer slats. If the doors were left open during travel or at a rest stop, rolling bamboo blinds could be lowered for privacy. Inside, the bride sat on a thick, silk-covered cushion.

Published References
  • Celia Heil. Lacquer Across the Oceans: Independent Invention or Diffusion?. .
  • Beautiful Palanquins: Edo and Vehicles. Exh. cat. Tokyo. cat. 71, pp. 100-103.
  • John T. Carpenter, Melissa McCormick. The Tale of Genji: A Japanese Classic Illuminated. Exh. cat. New York, New York, 2019. p. 251, 252, fig. 71.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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