Writing box (suzuribako) with chrysanthemums and autumn grasses

Attributed to Igarashi Dōho 五十嵐道甫 Japanese

Not on view

Next to Kyoto and Edo, there was a third major center of lacquer art in the early Edo period: Kanazawa in Kaga Province (present day Ishikawa Prefecture). Around the middle of the seventeenth century, Maeda Toshitsune (1594–1658), the third daimyo of Kaga, summoned the Kyoto-based lacquer master Igarashi Dōho (d. 1678) to his seat of government at Kanazawa. Dōho and a few other lacquer artists established the traditions of the so called Kaga lacquer school. Maeda Toshitsune was committed to the promotion of various arts and crafts in his Kanazawa Castle. The Igarashi workshop, as the official lacquerers of the Maeda, produced lacquered furniture and household items for the daimyo family and the elite. Maki-e lacquer decorated with gold was an especially important genre since Kaga was well-known for its gold mines and its high-quality gold leaf and powder.

This writing box is attributed to Igarashi Dōho and is a wonderful example of his technical excellence, fine lines, and favorite composition of autumn grasses. The exterior of the lid is decorated with chrysanthemums and autumn grasses, including pampas grass, bellflower, patrinia, and thoroughwort. The autumn flowers are expressed in relief and flat sprinkled gold and silver powder (maki-e), with the addition of fine lines and tiny cut-outs of gold and silver foil, conveying the delicate textures of the plants. The petals of the bellflowers are in thick blue and pink mother-of-pearl inlay. Some of the chrysanthemum petals are in gold and silver foil application. The rocks are done masterfully in gold and silver relief maki-e, with the addition of square cut-outs of metal foils. The background of the autumn flower composition is gold hirame-ground (sprinkled flat, oval, gold particles) on black lacquer. The box contains an inkstone, a shippō-shaped (interlinked circles, an auspicious motif) water dropper, and two trays to hold brushes and ink cakes. The interior is embellished with an autumn scene, including a silver moon, clouds, a lake with rocks as well as mandarin ducks and geese. The detailed gold and silver maki-e composition is depicted on hirame-ground.

Writing box (suzuribako) with chrysanthemums and autumn grasses, Attributed to Igarashi Dōho 五十嵐道甫 (Japanese, died 1678), Lacquered wood with gold, silver takamaki-e, hiramaki-e, togidashimaki-e, cut-out gold and silver foil application, mother-of-pearl inlay, Japan

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