Offered by: Thomsen Gallery
9 East 63rd Street New York City, NY 10065 , United States Call Seller 212.288.2588


Box for Writing Utensils, ca 1915

Price Upon Request
  • Description
    Box for Writing Utensils, ca 1915
    Maki-e gold and black lacquer on wood with silver and shakudo inlays
    Size 1¾ x 9¾ x 8½ in. (4.5 x 24.5 x 22 cm)

    A rectangular suzuribako (box for writing utensils) with kabusebuta (overhanging) lid, curved chiri-i ledge and flat top, the exterior finished in polished black roiro lacquer decorated principally in gold and silver hiramaki-e, takamaki-e, and togidashi maki-e with gold kinpun, hirame, kirikane, and nashiji powders and flakes, depicting five crows and two egrets at dawn in and above a forest of pines and other trees, the crows in shakudō (copper-gold alloy) and the egrets in silver; syllables and characters from a poem hidden in the design; the interior of the box with silver-lined cloud-shaped inserts above and below framing a truncated circular suzuri (ink-grinding stone) at left, itself carved with a cloud-shaped water reservoir; the upper insert with a cloud-shaped recess for the cloud-shaped mixed-metal suiteki (water dropper), inlaid with further syllables and a character; the sides of the box pierced with cloud shapes; the interior of the lid with clouds in a variety of gold-lacquer techniques

    Comes with a double wood tomobako storage box, the outer box finished in reddish lacquer and inscribed in gold hiramaki-e lacquer Ariake suzuribako (“Daybreak” box for writing utensils); the inner box finished in black lacquer and with the same inscription; the inside of the lid inscribed inside with a poem in gold hiramaki-e: Asagarasu / koe suru mori no / kozue shimo / tsuki wa yobukaki / ariake no kage (Even at daybreak / when the cries of crows are heard / from forest branches / the moon casts its pale shadows / as if it were still deep night); followed by an inscription Shōkōin no Miya Dōkō Hō Shinnō gyohitsu (From the Imperial Brush of Prince Shōkōin no Miya Dōkō)

    This design of conifers and peaceable egrets contrasted with raucous crows, together with fragments of a poem, is seen on several other contemporaneous lacquer works, including one in the Nasser D. Khalili collection, another formerly in the Edmund and Julia Lewis Collection, another formerly in the Irving Gould collection, and a fourth in Kyoto National Museum. Given their consistently high quality, elaborate and extravagant technique, and the fact that the almost identical design was apparently executed by several different artists, the case has been plausibly made that they were all likely commissioned by the Imperial Household Ministry as gifts to mark the enthronement ceremony of the Taisho Emperor in 1915 (three years after his actual succession in 1912), both the words and the imagery flatteringly symbolizing Japan’s delivery from the dark night of the Meiji Emperor’s death to the bright dawn of the Taisho Emperor’s enthronement. A seventeenth-century calligraphy from the hand of an imperial prince (Prince Shōkōin Dōkō), as seen on all the examples listed above, would have been an ideal accompaniment, while the poem itself, from the fourteenth-century anthology Fūgawakashū, was written by the unnamed daughter of the courtier Saki no Dainagon Saneakira.
  • More Information
    Period: 1900-1919
    Condition: Good.
    Styles / Movements: Modern, Asian
    Incollect Reference #: 715227
  • Dimensions
    W. 9.75 in; H. 1.75 in; D. 8.5 in;
    W. 24.77 cm; H. 4.45 cm; D. 21.59 cm;
Message from Seller:

Thomsen gallery, located in a townhouse on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, offers important Japanese paintings and works of art to collectors and museums worldwide. The gallery specializes in Japanese screens and scrolls; in early Japanese tea ceramics from the medieval through the Edo periods; in masterpieces of ikebana bamboo baskets; and in gold lacquer objects.

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