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An image of Incense box by


Incense box
Alternative title:
Place of origin
Meiji period 1868 - 1912 → Japan
late 19th century
Media category
Materials used
"maki-e" lacquer on wood, inlaid mother-of-pearl

17.8 x 18.9 x 12.8 cm:

a - box; 11.4 x 17.9 x 12.6 cm

b - stand; 5.4 x 18.9 x 12.8 cm

Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Purchased 1988
Accession number
Not on display
Further information

Incense played a significant part in the culture of the aristocracy and was adopted by the samurai class. Fragrant woods were imported at great expense from Southeast Asia, where they had been buried for many years to 'mature'. This box was made to store different types of incense for the incense game, in which participants are challenged to tell the different types of incense, each names with a poetic reference. Intricately decorated with various lacquer techniques, it features a profusion of flowers of the four seasons in a three-dimensional setting with the top as a trellis covered with wisteria.

The Asian Collections, AGNSW, 2003, pg.221.

The box is decorated with flowers of four seasons and its top bears a wisteria trellis. The interior of the door is decorated with butterflies. The tray in the top drawer has designs of cherry blossoms and a tent. The six small boxes in the central drawer have designs of persimmons, grapes, peaches, gourds, citrus fruits, and loquats, respectively. The three small boxes in the bottom drawer are decorated with gourds, ginkgo, and nandins respectively.

Bibliography (4)

AJIOKA Chiaki (Curator), Heroes and villains: from Japan's floating world, Sydney, May 2001, 7. 2.10

Jackie Menzies and Edmund Capon, Asian Collection Handbook, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Japanese Art', pg. 70-82, Sydney, 1990, 80 (colour illus.), 81 (colour illus.).

Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'The World of Samurai Culture', Sydney, 2003, 221 (colour illus.).

Public Programmes Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Adventures in Asia. An education kit for the Asian gallery, Sydney, 2003, 12 (colour illus.). card no.12

Exhibition history (1)

Heroes and Villains, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 19 May 2001–19 Aug 2001