Octagonal nest of boxes for food

From the Ryūkyū Islands, Japan
Edo period, 17th century AD

Red and gold lacquer with litharge painting

This nest of boxes is a good example of how Chinese techniques of decoration were probably introduced directly to the Ryūkyū Islands, south-west of the main islands of Japan, in the East China Sea. The main decoration is painted using the litharge technique: a small amount of oil is added to the paint so that it covers the lacquer surface. The Japanese rarely painted directly over lacquer in this way. The designs are outlined with gold foil and there are also shallow patches of nashiji. The design of birds and butterflies among camellias is very Chinese, but its freshness owes much to the mature Ryūkyū style.

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More information


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


Height: 38.000 cm

Museum number

Asia JA 1974.2-26.81


Gift of Sir Harry and Lady Garner


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