This object is currently on display in room 213 as part of Passion for the Exotic: Japonism. There is one other image of this object. See our image rights statement.

 

See more objects with the tag decoration, container, personal, ornamental, shells.

Object Timeline

-0001

1952

  • We acquired this object.

2015

2017

Box And Cover (Japan), late 19th century

This is a Box and cover. It was made by Yeki-ko. It is dated late 19th century and we acquired it in 1952. Its medium is shibayama technique carved mother-of-pearl and tinted ivory, silver, lacquered wood. It is a part of the Product Design and Decorative Arts department.

Lacquer is an ancient Japanese technique used to decorate and protect objects from moisture and decay. The creation of lacquerware objects is a difficult and dangerous task—raw lacquer, from the purified sap of the lac tree, can be toxic, leading to blisters, fever, and infection. Despite its toxicity, lacquer has been used throughout Japanese history on countless objects, from small boxes like this one to temple pillars, giving them greater value. There are a variety of techniques used to apply and decorate lacquer objects. For this shellwork box, the maker, Yeki-ko, carved intricate flowers of mother-of-pearl and laid them on a lacquered surface to create a shimmering result. Although Asian lacquer workers—predominantly in China, and to a lesser extent in Japan—had combined mother-of-pearl with lacquer for centuries, Japanese craftsmen did not coat an object’s entire surface with mother-of-pearl or other shell pieces until the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The box is marked nashiji (“pear ground”), referring to a technique where gold powder is embedded into a nearly translucent amber-colored lacquer, giving it a color similar to Japanese pear skin. Traditionally, Japanese lacquerware has rounded corners, intended to avoid sharp disruption of the medium’s surface finish, as seen here.

This object was donated by Unknown and catalogued by Hedy Backlin-Landman. It is credited Gift of Anonymous Donor.

Our curators have highlighted 3 objects that are related to this one.

Its dimensions are

H x W x D (a): 2 x 7.9 x 9.8 cm (13/16 x 3 1/8 x 3 7/8 in.) H x W x D (b): 1.5 x 7.9 x 9.8 cm (9/16 x 3 1/8 x 3 7/8 in.) H x W x D (overall - box and lid): 3 × 7.9 × 9.8 cm (1 3/16 × 3 1/8 × 3 7/8 in.)

It has the following markings

Inside of cover marked "Yeki-ko"

Cite this object as

Box And Cover (Japan), late 19th century; Made by Yeki-ko ; shibayama technique carved mother-of-pearl and tinted ivory, silver, lacquered wood; H x W x D (a): 2 x 7.9 x 9.8 cm (13/16 x 3 1/8 x 3 7/8 in.) H x W x D (b): 1.5 x 7.9 x 9.8 cm (9/16 x 3 1/8 x 3 7/8 in.) H x W x D (overall - box and lid): 3 × 7.9 × 9.8 cm (1 3/16 × 3 1/8 × 3 7/8 in.); Gift of Anonymous Donor; 1952-164-9-a,b

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18391599/ |title=Box And Cover (Japan), late 19th century |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=21 November 2017 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>

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