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Incense box

late 19th century


Unknown Artist

  • Details

    Alternative title
    Place where the work was made
    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
    Not on display
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

  • About

    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.

  • Places

    Where the work was made


  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 2 exhibitions

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

    • Glorious, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 27 May 2017–06 Jan 2019

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 4 publications