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1952

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2015

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2019

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Box And Cover (Japan)

This is a Box and cover. We acquired it in 1952. It is a part of the Product Design and Decorative Arts department.

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 donated by Unknown.

Cite this object as

Box And Cover (Japan); 1952-164-9-a,b

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Passion for the Exotic: Japonism.

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18391599/ |title=Box And Cover (Japan) |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=22 August 2019 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>