『牡丹虎蒔絵硯箱』”Makie Writing Box with Tigers and Peonies”


I would like to summarize the Maki-e writing box that was exhibited at the Tokyo National Museum’s exhibition of animals of the zodiac at the beginning of the year, “Hatsumoude to the Museum” (* The exhibition has already ended).


The exhibition was a little far through the glass, but this suzuri-bako was an elaborate work that attracted me to the extent that I wanted to magnify it to the smallest detail.

年代・所蔵先 Period / Collection

年代 Period所蔵先 Collection
江戸時代後期 Late Edo period東京国立博物館 Tokyo national Museum

江戸時代後期の蒔絵の特色 Features of Maki-e in the late Edo period


The age is considered to be a late work in the Edo period. The era of the pinnacle of Maki-e work was from the late Edo period to the late Meiji period. The technique is said to be “transcendental skill” and is highly evaluated even in modern times, and there are many collectors of the works of Maki-e artists of this era.


It is said that this era was an era in which both the side that created the work and the side that ordered and bought it did not stop seeking better craftsmanship. And over-decoration and eccentric ideas were born. It is said that it was an era when the economically powerful tradesmen supported mass production, and mass distribution and mass consumption.


Maki-e basically has a high material cost and a long production period. It can be said that it was the best environment where there were many orderers who supported it and the technology of the production side improved by answering both quantity and quality to the order.

寄贈者 クインシー・A・ショー Donator Quincy A. Shaw


The collection of this work is in the Tokyo National Museum, but the previous owner is Quincy A. Shaw. He was an American businessman who was also famous as an art collector.


In 1910, the collection of lacquer and sword fittings was donated to the Tokyo National Museum by the intention of his will. Many of Quincy’s lacquer donations are of high quality and have a very high lacquer technique, which can be said to be a transcendental technique. Even in the usual permanent exhibition, I think that the suzuri-bako and inro are wonderful, and most of my personal favorites are donated by Quincy. The value of each donated item is high, and it is a collection that can be said to be the cornerstone of the lacquering collection of the current Tokyo National Museum.


I think that a considerable number of works of art have been donated. Even today, most of the wonderful works of lacquer work are said to be overseas. Many of the auctions, collector’s collections, and lacquer work in overseas museums are of relatively higher quality than those in Japan. There are many recent exhibitions at Japanese museums as well as homecoming exhibitions from overseas museums. I am deeply grateful to be able to see and study wonderful works that were donated by Mr. Quincy.

硯箱の形 The shape of the box


This suzuri-bako has a lid that is slightly larger than the body underneath, and is designed to cover the body. The shape of such a box is called “Kabuse-buta-zukuri”.


The inkstone inside the body is in the middle, and the part where the brush is placed is on the left and right. This type of suzuri-bako is called “Hikka-type”. This suzuri-bako is the shape often used for suzuri-bako in the Edo period.


The water droplets ”Suiteki” also have the shape of a tiger’s face to match the Maki-e work of the tiger on the lid.


And if you look closely at the four corners of this box, the shape of the corners is not square. It has a soft shape like a dent. This is also a very luxurious structure.

高蒔絵の「虎」”Tiger” by Taka-Makie


The “tiger”, which can be said to be the protagonist of this work, is drawn in Taka-Makie work.


The tiger’s face has a three-dimensional effect by finely changing the height of the edges such as the ears, eyes, and mouth.


It was a little far away and I couldn’t see it well, but it seems that the tiger’s eyes are fitted with glass. It seemed that the glass was fitted on the black eye part drawn below.


I think the gray part is silver powder. It seems that they are sprinkled when they are at the same height as gold powder. It looks whitish when polished, so it would have been whitish at the time of completion. The black pattern of the tiger seemed to be drawn from above the gold. (It’s just a guess)

五三桐 Gosan-no-kiri


The background is a Togidashi-Makie work, and gold powder is used luxuriously. The line drawing of the arabesque pattern is drawn very finely and beautifully.


And on this fine arabesque pattern, the paulownia family crest is a little high Taka-Makie work.


This family crest is called “Gosangiri” (Gosan no Kiri). The name “Gosan(five-three)” is derived from the fact that the number of flowers is 5 in the center and 3 on the left and right.



In China, paulownia was considered to be the tree where phoenix lives. In addition, the phoenix lives in a paulownia tree and is said to eat bamboo fruits, and it is said that “paulownia, bamboo and phoenix” have been patterned.

In Japan, the paulownia pattern has a history of being used as a pattern of the imperial family since the Heian period. Even today, it is considered to be a highly prestigious pattern.


In addition to this pattern of paulownia, bamboo is also drawn on this suzuri-bako, and this tiger is drawn like a phoenix-worthy sacred beast. A peony is also drawn next to the tiger as a noble flower. It is a wonderful suzuri-bako that is full of prestigious patterns and you can feel the attention to detail from corner to corner.



As a family crest, it is also famous for being used by Toyotomi Hideyoshi and his vassals. Since it is said to be a work of the late Edo period, it is uncertain who made it as a family crest. It may be an order from a venerable house that has this Gosan-no-giri as a family crest. Or, the paulownia pattern is said to have been used as a pattern rather than as a family crest in the Edo period, so it may not be a pattern as a family crest.

I don’t know exactly because no clear material is left.


Even one pattern has a background that was used in that era, and the world is deep. Also, although the Suzuri-bako this time is unbranded, many of the Maki-e work of this era are wonderful even if they are unbranded.Even if it is unbranded, please take a look.


When this box is exhibited again, I would like to go see it again.

参考文献 References


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