Important Cultural PropertySmall lacquered box with chrysanthemum pattern

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  • 1 piece
  • Lacquered wood
  • L24.0 W31.3 H18.5
  • Muromachi period/15th century
  • Kyushu National Museum
  • H137

This is a rectangular etui with a beveled cover (sumimaruaikuchi). The chrysanthemum is a flower that was originally introduced into Japan from China and represents an auspicious motif that symbolizes longevity or life prolongation. Chrysanthemum patterns featuring narratives and literature, such as “Kikujido” and “Kikumagaki,” have been a popular design for artifacts since ancient times.

Flat maki-e powder (Hiramefun) is applied thickly to the black lacquered ground and the chrysanthemum pattern is represented by using Usuniku Takamaki-e (thin gold raised lacquerwork, a technique where patterns are raised with lacquer and then gold/silver powder is sprinkled on top) and thin silver metal films (using a technique to paste a thin metal film on a lacquered surface). The chrysanthemum flowers all have double petals and vary in form, such as a full-faced flower, the back of a flower, a flower facing sideways and a bud. The mounds of earth are created using Usuniku Takamaki-e and Togidashi Maki-e (putting black lacquer on a metal decoration as an additional coat) techniques and the rims are bordered with silver film (Kirikane). Togidashi Maki-e is a technique to do the following process: Draw patterns with lacquer for painting, sprinkle silver/gold powder over it and paste it with lacquer and after the lacquer hardens, file away the excess lacquer. Kirikane is a technique to cut out metal films into various shapes and paste them on a lacquered surface.
The metal fittings on the sides are for strings and in the form of Kuyomon (crest of nine circles) made of bronze. In an effort to achieve design consistency, a silver samite with chrysanthemum and arabesque patterns is pasted inside the box.

This etui is a valuable piece in that it follows an ancient representation and reflects a traditional design and that it represents the period from the end of the Northern and Southern Courts period to the early Muromachi period, for which there are not many remaining artifacts.