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Object Timeline

-0001

1952

  • We acquired this object.

2015

2017

2020

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Box And Cover (Japan)

This is a box and cover. It was made by Yeki-ko. We acquired it in 1952. 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.

Cite this object as

Box And Cover (Japan); Made by Yeki-ko ; 1952-164-9-a,b

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Passion for the Exotic: Japonism.

This image is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use page.

If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18391599/ |title=Box And Cover (Japan) |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=29 May 2020 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>