Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

Shikishi (square calligraphy paper) Box with Design of Flowers and Praying Mantis

Meiji period (1868–1912)
second half of the19th century
Lacquered wood with gold, silver takamaki-e, hiramaki-e, cutout gold foil application, mother-of-pearl inlay on black lacquer ground
H. 9 3/4 (24.8 cm); W. 8 in. (20.3 cm); D. 1 1/2 in. (3.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913
Accession Number:
14.40.838a, b
Not on view
Writing boxes were produced in large numbers from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century—a testament to the rise of literacy in Japan. As is typical of such boxes, the interior of this piece has a different but related design and holds an inkstone and other implements for writing and ink making. The box’s surface, richly decorated with an image of a praying mantis beneath a basket of strawberry geraniums, is typical of the art of the Meiji period. In Japanese lacquers intended for domestic use, pearl shell plays a secondary role in the decoration; here, it outlines the edges of the flower basket.
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