This four-tiered shelf was likely part of a high-ranking bride’s trousseau. The kurodana was used for the display and storage of cosmetic boxes and toiletries, including the utensils necessary for tooth blackening (haguro), the sign of a married woman. This example’s black-lacquer surface features a pattern of wild grapevines and the nine-circle or star crest (kuyō mon), which might be associated with the Hosokawa family.
The couturière Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (1883–1971) owned numerous Chinese Coromandel and Japanese gold lacquer folding screens. The contrast of their lustrous black coating, gold and silver, and inlaid decoration influenced some of her compositions.
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Title:Shelf for Cosmetic Boxes (Kurodana) with Wild Grapevine and Family Crest
Period:Edo period (1615–1868)
Date:first half 17th century
Medium:Lacquered wood with gold, silver hiramaki-e
Dimensions:H. 26 3/4 in. (67.9 cm); H. top shelf 14 1/2 in. (36.8 cm); W. top shelf 30 in. (76.2 cm)
Credit Line:Mary Griggs Burke Collection, Gift of the Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation, 2015
The four-shelved kurodana was an important item in the wedding trousseau of a bride in a daimyo family of the Edo period. Made as part of a set of cabinets called the santana (three shelves), which also included a zushidana (for toilet articles) and a shodana (for writing materials), the kurodana was used to store and display cosmetic boxes and toilet articles, especially those used to blacken the teeth (haguro; see cat. nos. 45, 46). The set was the centerpiece of the functional and decorative furnishings in the living quarters of upper-class women. The kurodana is distinguished from the two other types of trousseau cabinets by its open sides, single compartment with hinged double doors on the second shelf from the bottom, level top shelf, and slightly smaller size. A prototype is shown in the fourteenth-century Zenkyōbō emaki (Illustrated Teachings of the Monk Zenkyōbō) in the Suntory Museum of Art, Tokyo, but the form was not standardized much before the sixteenth century.
On this kurodana grapevines sway gracefully from shelf to shelf. They are punctuated by a family crest, of the type known as kuyō (nine stars), which signified protection from evil spirits in Buddhist cosmology. Because it was used by many families as early as the twelfth century, the crest does not identify the patron who commissioned the piece. The decorative scheme, common at that time, is found on many of the prototypical lacquerware objects in the Kōdaiji style made for Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536–1598) and installed in his mausoleum in Kyoto. The combination of motifs executed in granular and plain gold is also found in lacquer decoration of Kōdaiji. On the back of the compartment doors are a pair of leonine creatures. Common motifs on golden screens of the Momoyama and early Edo periods, these beasts are executed partially in the flat hiramaki- e technique and partially in low relief (takamaki-e). The combination of two techniques in the decoration of one object is found on some Kōdaiji lacquer associated with the Kōami artists, but practically never on the lacquer pieces made during the same period for the European market and known as nanban (cat. nos. 95, 96). The influence of the export style is evident in such features as the scroll patterns on the vertical posts supporting the shelves. These patterns, known as nanban palmettes to distinguish them from traditional Japanese palmette designs, appear frequently on objects made for Christian use and also occasionally on traditional Japanese furnishings.
[Miyeko Murase 2000, Bridge of Dreams]
 Suntory Museum of Art 1968, no. 4.
Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation , New York (until 2015; donated to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Japanese Art: Selections from the Mary and Jackson Burke Collection," November 7, 1975–January 4, 1976.
Seattle Art Museum. "Japanese Art: Selections from the Mary and Jackson Burke Collection," March 10–May 1, 1977.
Minneapolis Institute of Arts. "Japanese Art: Selections from the Mary and Jackson Burke Collection," June 1–July 17, 1977.
Tokyo National Museum. "Nihon bijutsu meihin ten: nyūyōku bāku korekushon," May 21, 1985–June 30, 1985.
Nagoya City Art Museum. "Nihon bijutsu meihin ten: nyūyōku bāku korekushon," August 17, 1985–September 23, 1985.
Atami. MOA Museum of Art. "Nihon bijutsu meihin ten: nyūyōku bāku korekushon," September 29, 1985–October 27, 1985.
Hamamatsu City Museum of Art. "Nihon bijutsu meihin ten: nyūyōku bāku korekushon," November 12, 1985–December 1, 1985.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Japanese Art from The Mary Griggs Burke Collection," March 30–June 25, 2000.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Celebrating the Arts of Japan: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection," October 20, 2015–May 14, 2017.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Kyoto: Capital of Artistic Imagination," July 24, 2019–January 31, 2021.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Kimono Style: The John C. Weber Collection," June 4, 2022–February 20, 2023.
Murase, Miyeko, Il Kim, Shi-yee Liu, Gratia W. Nakahashi, Stephanie Wada, Soyoung Lee, and David Ake Sensabaugh. Art Through a Lifetime: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection. Vol. 2, Japanese Objects, Korean Art, Chinese Art. [New York]: Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation, , p. 124, cat. no. 782.
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