Writing Box and Paper Box (Suzuribako and Ryoshibako)

Location: Japan

Materials: hiramaki-e, takamaki-e, sabiagenuri, okibirame, keuchi, shell

Dimensions: 5 x 22.5 x 27 cm (writing-box); 10.2 x 30.1 x 39.5 cm (paper-box)

Accession Number: BL 24-BL 25

Other Notes:

A matching set of suzuribako and ryoshibako, both with overhanging lids, decorated with auspicious motifs (takaramono). The lid of the suzuribako portrays the hat and cloak of invisibility and, on the reverse, stylized weights and crossed scrolls. The interior, decorated with branches of coral and a pearl, contains a black-lacquered wood ink-stone, a knife, a skewer, and two brushes, all decorated in gold fundame. The lacquered wood water-dropper echoes the hanabishi motif on the lid of the paper-box.

The outside of the ryoshibako portrays stylized weights symbolising trade and prosperity; the hanabishi floral motif within a rhomboid formed of arcs of a circle; and a stylized clove. These three motifs carry over to the sides and are repeated so that the design is complete when the lid is removed. The wealth-bestowing mallet of Daikoku, one of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune, appears on one of the sides and continues underneath the box. The reverse of the lid decorated with the hanabishi floral motif, a key with tassles, and a stylized clove. The interior of the box portrays stylized weights, a flaming pearl, and a rigid fan in Chinese-style inlaid with shell.

These designs executed in gold, silver, and intermediate shades of hiramakie and takamakie, with details in sabiagenuri, gold okibirame, keuchi, and shell placed in okibirame fashion, on a polished orange-red lacquer ground.


O. Impey, M. Fairley, J. Earle (eds.), Meiji No Takara: Treasures Of Imperial Japan: Lacquer Vol II, London 1995, cat. 206.
J. Earle (ed.), Meiji No Takara: Treasures Of Imperial Japan: Masterpieces by Shibata Zeshin, London 1996, cat. 1-2.
J. Earle, Splendors of Imperial Japan: Arts of the Meiji period from the Khalili Collection, London 2002, cat. 334, p. 452.