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Writing box (suzuribako)

mid 19th century


Unknown Artist

  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Edo (Tokugawa) period 1615 - 1868 → Japan
    mid 19th century
    Media category
    Materials used
    box: lacquer with gold, silver, shell; water dropper: gilt metal
    3.7 x 22.2 x 19.5 cm :

    a - box base, 3.1 x 21.2 x 18.8 cm

    b - box lid, 3 x 22.2 x 19.5 cm

    c - base in box, 20.4 x 18 cm

    d - cloud shaped water dropper, 1 x 2.5 x 5.7 cm

    e - ink stone, 0.8 x 10 x 6.3 cm

    Signature & date

    Box unsigned; water dropper signed 'Zoroku zo'

    Purchased 2005
    Not on display
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

  • About

    This box is decorated with a design of lotus plants and the text of the Buddhist Heart Sutra in gold characters. The Heart Sutra is considered one of the most important of all Buddhist sutras and is particularly popular in Japan.

    The design is executed in a virtuoso display of lacquer techniques. These include 'togidashi' (where the design is sprinkled on, then covered and the hardened surface polished until the design reappears flush with the surface); 'mura-nashiji' (cloud-like areas where fine gold flakes are sunk into the wet lacquer surface to create a background resembling 'pear skin'); and silver and gold 'kirigane' (applied metallic foil). The sides of the box are inlaid in 'aogai' (shell) with a repeat pattern in the style known as Somada style. The bevelled edges of the box are inlaid in gold 'gyobu nashiji' (a mosiac effect of individually-placed irregular gold flakes). The underside of the cover and the undulating internal tray are decorated in similar techniques to the top, with the windblown petals of the lotus flowers. The gilt metal water dropper is in the shape of a cloud.

    Asian Art Department, AGNSW, December 2005.

  • Places

    Where the work was made


  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 1 exhibition