Writing Box with Portrait of Fujiwara no Ietaka and His Poem about the Tatsuta River

Period: Edo period (1615–1868)

Date: 18th century

Culture: Japan

Medium: Lacquered wood with gold and silver hiramaki-e, togidashimaki-e, and red lacquer on silver ground

Dimensions: H. 8 1/2 in. (21.6 cm); W. 8 1/8 in. (20.6 cm); L. 2 in. (5.1 cm)

Classification: Lacquer

Credit Line: H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929

Accession Number: 29.100.688


The poem on the outside of the lid is rendered in fine hiramaki-e, imitating calligraphy in ink. The inside of the box is embellished with colorful maple leaves in a river on nashiji ground. The poem, by Fujiwara no Ietaka (1158–1237), is about the Tatsuta River in Nara Prefecture:

Tatsuta gawa
momiji o tozuru
usugō ri
wataraba kore mo
naka ya taenan

On Tatsuta River
a layer of red maple leaves
is trapped within thin ice,
and if we were to go across
the brocade would be torn.

—Trans. John T. Carpenter