国宝『浮線綾螺鈿蒔絵手箱』National Treasure “Accessory Raden Maki-e Box with Fusenryo Design”


This time, I would like to introduce the lacquer work of “Accessory Raden Maki-e Box with Fusenryo Design” in the Suntory Museum of Art. This is because, at the Japanese Art exhibition at the Suntory Museum of Art last year, not only the main box but also the outer box was exhibited, which was very intriguing and I wanted to know more about it.


I really wanted to summarize it on this blog. National treasure lacquer work is scattered not only in the national museum but also in various museums.

日本の箱文化 Japanese box culture


Since ancient times, Japanese people have a culture of putting important things in boxes.


Just as there are caskets after the death of a person overseas, I think that the “box” was also an important “treasure” in the world to put important things in.


Many of the important “boxes” in Japan are lacquer products in history, but most of them are made of wood. In other words, in addition to natural disasters such as earthquakes, if there is a fire, it will burn and disappear. For that reason, lacquering hand boxes have been stored strictly over time. In other words, the hand box that can be seen in modern times is very valuable. And because of its long history, there are many owners who have inherited it, and there is a story.


In modern society, the technology revolution has changed the values of things, and it may be becoming a value that does not place importance on “boxes”. However, no matter how the times change, there are things that can only be produced by humans who lived in those times, and no matter how much we try to restore them to posterity, the same things will never happen again. I think it’s worth the time you can’t buy with money.

『浮線綾螺鈿手箱』”Accessory Raden Maki-e Box with Fusenryo Design”

『手箱』”Accessory Box”


In the olden days, the “box” on display at museums, etc., was considered to be the centerpiece of furniture as a box for aristocrats to put various things around them such as makeup tools. I think that many people feel that the size is also larger than you can see in the picture.


Originally, it is said that the container containing Chinese combs and mirrors was made into a Japanese style. By putting in women’s makeup tools, it has been made gorgeously as “Special furnishings” among the furnishings.


The “Accessory Raden Maki-e Box with Fusenryo Design” was repaired in 2017 for the first time in 50 years, and after the repair in 2017, it was unveiled for the first time. And this hand box is the only national treasure in the collection of the Suntory Museum of Art. It is an important cultural property that can be said to be the centerpiece of the museum.

手箱の由緒 History of the box

西暦 Year時代 Period所蔵先 Ownership
1185〜鎌倉 Kamakura製造年代として予測
Predicted as manufacturing period
1336〜室町 Muromachi
1573〜安土桃山 Azuchi-Momoyama
1819江戸 Edo下総古河藩の土井家
Doi family of the Shimousa Koga clan
Outer box creation: Described as a favorite item of Masako Hojo
1920大正 Taisho実業家 原富太郎 Tomitaro Hara, a industrialist
1962昭和 Showaサントリー美術館 Suntory Museum of Art
1964昭和 Showa国宝に指定 Designated as a national treasure


It is said to have been manufactured in the Kamakura period, but it is unknown because no records before the Edo period have been found.

漆芸技法(蒔絵)Lacquering technique (Makie)

沃懸地 Ikakeji


This hand box uses a Maki-e technique called “Ikakeji”, in which gold powder is densely sown.


“Iokake-ji” is said to be a technique used during the Heian period to the Kamakura / Muromachi period. Since it is a golden land, it is also called “golden ground(Kin-ji)”. However, when it is called “Ikake-ji”, the gold powder used is not limited to perfect round ones, but also various shapes. In other words, it is recognized that it was produced during the transitional period of manufacturing accuracy of flour milling technology. A lacquer work that is densely sown using modern gold powder (a particle of which is uniform) is called “golden ground(Kin-ji)”.

沃懸地 Ikake-ji平安時代〜鎌倉・室町時代 Heian〜Kamakura・Muromachi period
金地 Kin-ji上記時代以降〜現代 After the above era 〜modern


In other words, it is the same golden ground, but the wording is changed according to the date of manufacture and the gold powder used.


However, in the world of craft art, technological development, industrialization, mass production, and uniformity are not 100% better.


Gold powder of different sizes is densely sprinkled from large to small and different sizes to give depth. The facial expression changes depending on the viewing angle and how the light hits. It can be said that the technique of using luxurious gold powder, such as pouring gold, was possible because it was an era when gold was abundant. This box is introduced as a historically valuable one that well represents the expression style of the Kamakura period.


Also, such gorgeous lacquer work was made for a very limited number of people and would not have been seen by many living at the time. .. In a sense, it is also called the Tamatebako, which was regarded as a deity. At that time, it is said that “Ikake-ji” was considered to be the best technique among lacquering products. Because of this modern age, you can see it if you go to the museum.


There is the “Cosmetic Maki-e Box with Carriage Wheels in Water” as a national treasure in the present age, which is close to the time of manufacture and is compared with the manufacturing technology of gold powder. I have introduced it in past posts, so if you are interested, please read this as well.

国宝『片輪車蒔絵螺鈿手箱』National Treasure “Cosmetic Maki-e Box with Carriage Wheels in Water”


In addition, I have introduced the gold powder of lacquer work Makie in modern times in past posts.

蒔絵に使う「金粉」 Metal powder used for lacquer work,Maki-e

螺鈿 Raden


The base of this box is also solid, but what is interesting is how to handle the shells revealed by the repair.


First, the shells are pasted on the hardened wood, then the cloth is placed on the front, avoiding the shells, and then the lacquer base is applied. By doing so, it is said that the thickness of the shell was supplemented, and the height of the surface on which the gold powder was sown was the same as the height of the shell.


In general, I think that there are many ways to apply shellfish after applying all the groundwork. The work of cutting the cloth leaving only the raden part and the work of carefully attaching the base to the groove between the shell and the base material are quite difficult techniques. I can say as much as I can in words, and I can understand the principle in my head, but when it comes to actually doing it, I think that it often doesn’t work at all.


After this much time has passed, there are many cultural properties in which shells are embossed due to the thinness of the wood. However, there are some cracks, and even though they have been repaired, I don’t think there are many that have a beautiful lacquer surface of shellfish and gold powder.


In addition, the Maki-e work made from the top of the Raden shell has the impression that it is easier to peel off after hundreds of years than the Maki-e work. The lacquer work on the shell of the lacquer work seen in the museum is often peeled off and the pattern is missing. It can be said that the fact that it remains so beautiful has been very important to the owners from generation to generation.


By the way, I couldn’t find any description of what kind of shellfish this Raden shellfish is. I think that it is a turbomarmoratus because of its whitish and historical background.

(参考投稿 Reference post : 螺鈿 「あわび貝」 Raden 「Abalone shell」)

浮線綾文 Fusenryo-Design


“Fusenryo-design” in the name of this box refers to the arabesque pattern in the form of a group of flowers.


An arabesque pattern is placed in the center of the circle, and arabesque patterns are placed on the top, bottom, left, and right, and a four-petaled flower pattern is placed between each arabesque pattern. In Japan, it is said that it developed as an aristocratic family pattern “Yusokumonyo” during the Heian period. Before that, the rules of colors and patterns were decided, but it is said that they began to include elements of hobbies and play during the Heian period. After that, although it was formalized and forgotten, it still lives on as a classical pattern.

「浮線綾」という言葉は。。。↓The word “Fusenryo”. .. .. ↓

~ Late Heian period
Technique name of how to weave a woven fabric indicating Ukiori Aya
→ “Ukiori” that floats and weaves lines
Kamakura period
Pattern name indicating a specific Karahanamon


In addition, this “Fusenryo-mon” is also known as “Fusechomon”. This is an arabesque pattern that looks like a butterfly, and it is said that the reading of the pattern name has changed.

(“Cho”「蝶」=butterfly in Japanese)


And the roots of many employment patterns, including Ukiayaori-mon, are said to be the Sasanian Persia, which dates back to the Silk Road. Although Japanese patterns are Japanese-style, historically they often have roots in foreign countries. If you know the history, the world will expand and it will be interesting to connect.

研出蒔絵(蓋裏)Togidashi-Makie (back of lid)


At first glance, the Maki-e work on the back of the lid looks sober with only gold and jet black, but it is drawn very finely. An enlarged pattern is printed on the back of the front cover of the catalog of this reference. Thanks to the recent printing technology, the pattern can be seen clearly, and it is a graceful Maki-e work that you can feel the brush strokes and even breathing of the Maki-e artist at that time.

参考文献 References

サントリー美術館図録,『六本木開館10周年記念展 神の宝の玉手箱』,2017


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