Box And Cover (Japan), late 19th century
Lacquer is an ancient Japanese technique used to decorate and protect objects from moisture and decay. The creation of lacquerware objects is a difficult and dangerous task—raw lacquer, from the purified sap of the lac tree, can be toxic, leading to blisters, fever, and infection. Despite its toxicity, lacquer has been used throughout Japanese history on countless objects, from small boxes like this one to temple pillars, giving them greater value. There are a variety of techniques used to apply and decorate lacquer objects. For this shellwork box, the maker, Yeki-ko, carved intricate flowers of mother-of-pearl and laid them on a lacquered surface to create a shimmering result. Although Asian lacquer workers—predominantly in China, and to a lesser extent in Japan—had combined mother-of-pearl with lacquer for centuries, Japanese craftsmen did not coat an object’s entire surface with mother-of-pearl or other shell pieces until the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The box is marked nashiji (“pear ground”), referring to a technique where gold powder is embedded into a nearly translucent amber-colored lacquer, giving it a color similar to Japanese pear skin. Traditionally, Japanese lacquerware has rounded corners, intended to avoid sharp disruption of the medium’s surface finish, as seen here.
This object was
It is credited
Gift of Anonymous Donor.
Its dimensions are
H x W x D (a): 2 x 7.9 x 9.8 cm (13/16 x 3 1/8 x 3 7/8 in.) H x W x D (b): 1.5 x 7.9 x 9.8 cm (9/16 x 3 1/8 x 3 7/8 in.) H x W x D (overall - box and lid): 3 × 7.9 × 9.8 cm (1 3/16 × 3 1/8 × 3 7/8 in.)
It has the following markings
Inside of cover marked "Yeki-ko"
Cite this object as
Box And Cover (Japan), late 19th century; Made by Yeki-ko ; H x W x D (a): 2 x 7.9 x 9.8 cm (13/16 x 3 1/8 x 3 7/8 in.) H x W x D (b): 1.5 x 7.9 x 9.8 cm (9/16 x 3 1/8 x 3 7/8 in.) H x W x D (overall - box and lid): 3 × 7.9 × 9.8 cm (1 3/16 × 3 1/8 × 3 7/8 in.); Gift of Anonymous Donor; 1952-164-9-a,b
This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Passion for the Exotic: Japonism.