Lacquer, with sprinkled gold decoration in Kodaiji style, inlaid with gold and silver foil; H. 8 1/4 in. (21 cm), W. 17 15/16 in. (45.6 cm)
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1987 (1987.82ab)
The bold designs and gorgeous floral decoration in sprinkled gold on the gold and black lacquerwork of this large box for writing paper are characteristic of lacquerware associated with Kodaiji. This temple, built in 1606 in memory of the great shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi (15361598) by his widow, is the epitome of the lavish taste of the Momoyama age. Despite several fires, the temple preserves a corpus of some thirty lacquer objects, which include architectural elements and utensils used in the fabled castles of the ostentatious Hideyoshi. Distinctive features of the Kodaiji style, in vogue from about 1568 until well into the early seventeenth century, are its naturalistic rendering of plant motifs, usually autumn grasses, in large forms on a ground frequently divided into alternating diagonal fields of black and sprinkled gold. The wisteria-laden pine and the bridge bordered by spring willows have classic literary associations appropriate to boxes of this type. Bridgesthis one recalling the famous structure at Ujiwere particularly favored as an artistic motif during the early seventeenth century. Technically, the making of Kodaiji lacquerware was not as complicated as were earlier and later works of the Koami school artisans, who simplified their traditional methods to produce the bold decorative effects and large quantities demanded by lavish Momoyama patrons. The sumptuous technique employed here, which includes the inlay of gold and silver sheets, suggests a date late in the Momoyama period.