Writing Box and Document Box with Poem Grasses and Flowers
Miyazaki Heiando Studio
Item number: T-1261
Size: H 8.4" x W 12.4" x L 15.9" (21.3 x 31.5 x 40.3 cm)
Wood, with decoration in gold hiramaki-e and characters inlaid in silver on a black-lacquer ground; the interior with gold hirame flakes and decoration in two tones of gold hiramaki-e; the suiteki (water dropper) and rims silver; the ink stone with a gold-lacquered rim The writing box 1 ¾ × 7 ½ × 9 ¾ in. (4.6 × 19 × 24.8 cm); the document box 4 ¾ × 12 ½ × 15 ¾ in. (12.3 × 31.5 × 40.3 cm) With fitted wooden tomobako box inscribed outside: Roiro uta-moji maki-e ryōshi bunko 蝋色歌文字蒔絵 料紙文庫 (Document box with maki-e decoration of characters from a poem); Roiro uta-moji maki-e suzuribako 蝋色歌文字蒔絵 硯箱 (Writing box with maki-e decoration of characters from a poem); both boxes inscribed inside: Miyazaki Heiandō 宮崎平安堂 The decoration of this matching set of boxes combines susuki or obana, (Miscanthus sinensis, plume grass, see also no. 2) and flowering stems of hagi (Lespedeza bicolor, bush clover) in hiramaki-e with 25 inlaid silver characters, on both lids and on two sides of the larger box, that spell out the full text of a poem by Jōsaimon’in no Hyōe (active late twelfth century) from Book 1 of the imperial anthology Senzai wakashū (Poem Collection of a Thousand Years, presented to the Emperor in 1188): Hana no iro ni / hikarisashisou / haru no yo zo / konoma no tsuki wa / mibekarikeru On spring evenings / when the colors of the flowers / are picked out by its / bright light shining through the trees / that’s the time to view the moon As with no. 26, every single syllable of the poem is spelt out, in contrast to many earlier lacquers, dating from the thirteenth century onwards, that include only a few words and rely on the viewer to use them in combination with visual clues—as with the writing box in Kōetsu style, no. 27—to reconstruct the entire text. This older approach to lacquer decoration required, of course, a thorough knowledge of the classic poetic canon, something that could not always be expected of a mid-twentieth-century buyer. Even so, the present set would have presented a challenge to most viewers, since the poem is relatively obscure, no clues are given as to its identity (in contrast to no. 26), and the artist used archaic script forms that would not have been familiar to many readers. A set of a writing box and a document box in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art by designer Kamisaka Sekka (1866 –1942, see no. 7) and his lacquerer brother Kamisaka Yūkichi (1886 –1938), also featuring susuki and hagi, similarly gives the full text of a poem, although in that case it appears to be an original composition rather than a quotation from an anthology. Susuki and hagi are two of the Aki no Nanakusa (Seven Grasses of Autumn). For some reason the makers of the present set did not choose a poem that matched the autumn theme, but the moon-shaped suiteki (water dropper) reinforces the connection between word and image.  Los Angeles County Museum of Art M.2007.12.1-.2; see LACMA in the Bibliography. Special thanks are due to Hollis Goodall, Curator of Japanese Art, for supplying additional information relating to this piece.