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Exquisite Early Japanese Lacquer Kobako Box with Insert Tray

Origin Japan
Period Pre 18th Century
Materials lacquer wood and silver
W. 4 in; H. 2 in; D. 4 in; Diam. 4 in;
W. 10.16 cm; H. 5.08 cm; D. 10.16 cm; Diam. 10.16 cm;
Condition Good. Wear consistent with age and use. Fine antique condition, minor wear, mostly on the base, some old losses of kirigane inlays as shown. Oxidation on the metal.
Description An early Japanese lacquer kobako (small box) in octagon shape circa 16-17th century (late Muromachi to Momoyama period). This kobako was possibly used as a kogo to store incense. It features an inner tray and silver metal rim. The execution of the Maki-e that decorates the top surface of the box and the tray was masterly precise and exquisite in taste. On the foreground of the lid, a peasant with long tail was depicted perching on a porous rock, with grasses, ferns and Japanese clovers peeking out. Hira and takamakie were employed throughout with kirigane gold inlay. The rock was done in a significantly high relief using sabi urushi, a mixture of pulverized pumice, seisei urushi and rice, newly developed in Muromachi period. This technique allowed the artisans to create much higher relief. The kirigane and encrustation and embedment of gold ring and chuck further added the texture to the rock. The inner tray depicts a silver egret standing on the gnarled trunk of a willow tree above a rapid river. Again, the trunk of the tree was created with takamakie with kirigane. The egret was a separate silver piece that was set into the lacquer, populated later by Shibayama. The two pictorials share a poetic spirit when viewed side by side. The orientation of the two birds may be intentional to create a harmonious correspondence. The rest of the exterior and the whole interior were finished in a dense nashiji while the base was contrasted with a nuro-nashiji. The rims of the box and the tray were both lined with a silver metal likely sterling.
For a lacquer suzuribako from the same period with a similar sabi urushi high relief design, see page 38-41 in "Symbol & Substance in Japanese Lacquer" by Barbra Teri Okada.
Styles / Movements Asian, Bespoke, Traditional
Patterns Animal/Insects, Asian/Oriental, Handmade
Incollect Reference Number 436505
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