Antique Japanese Urushi Lacquered Box Signed | Lacquered Accessory box
Dimensions: 1-7/8”h x 4-1/2” square
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Japanese lacquer was widely admired throughout Asia, where it was considered superior in quality and beauty to that of other countries. Taking hold of the box, one would first be amazed at how light it is, feeling as if it weighs no more than a piece of paper. This may be surprising to someone unfamiliar with lacquer since the golden decoration makes the box appear at first glance as if it is made of metal. This rare and unusual box is a treat for the hand and eyes having a three-section lid ornamented with a gold and silver background and embellished with red, orange, and black threadlike ink stripes which overlap from the lid to the sides of the box. Turning it over and around in one’s hands, light reflecting off the different areas of burnished and matte gold and silver and the satin-like finish of the surface would make it gleam, causing one to wonder how such an extraordinary object would have been made. Upon lifting off the lid one is delighted to find that the interior surface is finished with a densely coated claret coloration with a carved striped textured wood with the artist's stamp. The box has its original artist-signed paulownia wood box.
Condition: Good condition, expertly rendered, long-term used feeling condition although parts of the black background show through to the exterior surface. Upon purchase, a Japanese lacquer specialist said the line work is not smeared for it is the undercoating from wear, and the piece would not have been signed or sold in its original box if the lifework was distorted during the creation. The box remains functional and is a work of art on its own which collectors love to display.
NOTE: Lacquer (urushi in Japanese) is the sap of a tree native to East Asia that is refined and applied to a core material, usually wood, such as pine, cypress, or paulownia. After being brushed on in thin layers, the coatings harden to a natural sheen. In Japan, the most common type of lacquer decoration is makie' (“sprinkled picture”), in which gold powder is literally sprinkled onto wet lacquer before it cures, with additional layers added to seal the metal to the surface before burnishing. The gold powder would have been sprinkled using a hollow tube of bamboo or quill, one end open for inserting the powder, the other covered with a screen of mesh for distributing the powder. The entire process, from the harvesting and processing of the raw lacquer to the application and polishing of the final layers, is labor intensive and requires the work of numerous highly skilled craftsmen to produce a single work.
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