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Asian art

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Writing box (suzuribako) with design of pine tree and citrus

17th century


Unknown Artist


The care and quality of the craftsmanship lavished on a box such as this is a testament to the high esteem in which the objects and utensils for writing and painting are held in both Japan and China. The practice of using a smooth dark stone moistened with water for rubbing and preparing the solid ink was introduced from China; however the elaborate box with its partitions for brushes, ink sticks and a water dropper is more in keeping with the Japanese tradition. The lid is ornamented with a design of pine tree with pomegranate; the inside with a stylised fishing net and bird pattern. The technique of 'nashiji' involves small flakes of gold of irregular shape and varying sizes being set in an almost random pattern in a bed of wet lacquer. 'Takamaki-e' is a technique in which the design is built up in relief and modelled in a mixture of lacquer and charcoal or clay dust.

Art Gallery Handbook, 1999. pg. 272.


Other Titles

Writing box suzuribako (containing inkstone and water dropper)

Inkstone case Suzuribako

Alternative title

Matsu tachibana maki-e hira suzuri

Place where the work was made



17th century

Media category


Materials used

lacquered wood, decorated in nashiji and gold "takamaki-e", inlaid with silver and gold foil


4.3 x 23.0 x 21.3 cm :

a - box, 3.6 x 22.2 x 20.4 cm

b - lid, 2.4 x 23 x 21.3 cm

c - inkstone tray, 21.4 x 9.9 cm

d - inside box, 1.8 x 21.4 x 9.7 cm

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Gift of Mr Klaus Naumann 1989


Not on display

Accession number



Where the work was made

Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

  • Art of the brush, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 23 Sep 1995–12 Nov 1995

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

Referenced in 5 publications


Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Asian Collection: East Asia', pg. 246-287, Sydney, 1999, 272 (colour illus.).

Jackie Menzies, Art of the Brush - Chinese & Japanese painting calligraphy, Sydney, 1995, 23.

Jackie Menzies and Edmund Capon AM, OBE, Asian Collection Handbook, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Japanese Art', pg. 70-82, Sydney, 1990, 78 (colour illus.).

Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'The World of Samurai Culture', Sydney, 2003, 220 (colour illus.).

Public Programmes Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales and The Japan Foundation (Editors), Art speaks Japanese: Japanese language education kit from the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2007, colour illus.. card no. 04