Important Cultural PropertySmall box with the pattern of wooden folding fan in mother-of-pearl inlay

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  • 1 piece
  • Lacquered wood
  • 21.1x11.3x4.8
  • Kamakura period/13th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • H-4214

Circular patterns consisting of cypress fans are scattered all over the outer sides of this tebako (lit. hand-box, box to keep small items for everyday use, such as cosmetics). The design is highly sophisticated and well-structured.
The lid and the opening of the body are of the same size without overlapping (aikuchi-zukuri). The edges of both are covered with tin. The gilt-bronze fitting for strings is attached to the body; the cypress-fan pattern, the same motif as the makie on the box, is line-engraved on it.
Each circular pattern has three fans and the patterns are scattered on the lid and sides of the body where the suhama shapes (shape made of three ovals or circles) are drawn evenly. There are similar cypress-fan patterns on the reverse side of the lid as well. All the motifs are drawn with the gold burnished makie (togidashi makie) on a hirameji base (surface sprinkled with metal flakes, lacquered and polished). The makibokashi (gradated sprinkling) method is used for the edges of the suhama shapes.
Cypress fans were commonly used by the nobility and there are costumes patterned with them in some emaki (narrative pictures) in the Kamakura period. However, this tebako is the only example of the cypress-fan design used in makie known so far.
This piece might appear simple, but the design and the arrangement of the patterns are made very carefully and the techniques employed are quite solid. This piece is highly valuable for these reasons.