Set of Five Writing Boxes with Japanese Globeflowers, Plum Blossoms, and Interlaced Roundels

Period: Edo period (1615–1868)

Date: late 18th–early 19th century

Culture: Japan

Medium: Lacquered wood with gold and silver hiramaki-e and applied gold foil on nashiji ground

Dimensions: H. 9 1/4 in. (23.5 cm); W. 6 3/4 in. (17.1 cm); D. 10 1/4 in. (26 cm)

Classification: Lacquer

Credit Line: Bequest of Stephen Whitney Phoenix, 1881

Accession Number: 81.1.136a–z


Writing-box sets are used in poetry contests or incense games in which several participants have to write at the same time. The writing boxes are distributed at the beginning of the event and collected at the end. This set of five boxes is housed in an open frame decorated with a landscape with a river and Japanese globeflowers. The lid of the stacked boxes is embellished with a plum-tree branch and brushwood fence, a well-known design from the Tōshōgū (Tokugawa memorial shrine) in Nikkō, where the door of the main shrine is decorated with a similar motif. The sides are embellished with interlaced gold and silver roundels (shippō), an auspicious motif on nashiji (pear skin) ground.