Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History



  • Writing Box with Warbler in Plum Tree, Edo period (1615–1868), 18th century
    Japan
    Lacquered wood with gold and silver takamaki–e, hiramaki–e, togidashimaki–e on nashiji ground; H. 2 3/8 in. (6 cm); W. 9 3/8 in. (23.8 cm); L. 10 1/4 in. (26 cm)
    H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (29.100.695a–e)

    The lid of this writing box (which now contains only a water-dropper) is embellished with a flowering plum tree and a warbler singing among the branches. The first song of the warbler is the harbinger of spring and, as an auspicious motif symbolizing a new beginning, is often featured in classical literature. (It is the main theme of Chapter 23 of The Tale of Genji, centered on an exchange of New Year’s greetings.) The inside of the box is decorated with a frog, also associated with springtime, among fallen plum blossoms and four characters that refer to the murmur of the river. In the Japanese preface of the Anthology of Poems Past and Present (Kokin wakashū; ca. 920) compiled by Ki no Tsurayuki, there is an often cited phrase: “The song of the warbler among the blossoms, the voice of the frog dwelling in the water—these teach us that every living creature sings.”

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  • Writing Box with Warbler in Plum Tree, Edo period (1615–1868), 18th century
    Japan
    Lacquered wood with gold and silver takamaki-e, hiramaki-e, togidashimaki-e on nashiji ground; H. 2 3/8 in. (6 cm); W. 9 3/8 in. (23.8 cm); L. 10 1/4 in. (26 cm)
    H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (29.100.695a–e)

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