Lacquer writing-box

From Japan
Edo period, mid-late 17th century AD

The versatile artist Hon'ami Kōetsu (1558-1637) inspired the revival of the courtly art traditions of the Heian period (794-1185). This style was later named 'Rimpa'. Kōetsu himself is famous for his calligraphy and designs for pottery, metal and lacquerware.

This writing box is a fine example of slightly later lacquerware still in the Kōetsu style. As with many of the works of the Kōetsu School, the design is inspired by a classical poem, in this case no. 283 from the anthology Kokin wakashū (AD 905).

'Were one to cross it,
the brocade might break in two,
coloured autumn leaves,
floating in random pattern,
on the Tatsuta River.'

(Translation: Helen Craig McCullough)

The design shows a bridge scattered with maple leaves stretching across the waves of the River Tatsuta. The bridge supports are of mother-of-pearl inlay, and the surface of the waves is further varied by swirls of lead inlay. The inside is decorated with deer in makie and shell inlay. The box once contained an inkstone and brushes.

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More information


L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)


Width: 20.500 cm
Length: 23.000 cm
Height: 4.500 cm

Museum number

Asia JA 1945.10-17.392.a


Bequeathed by Oscar Raphael


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