Tebako (cosmetic box), Design of wheels half submerged in stream in maki-e lacquer and mother-of-pearl inlay

Heian period, 12th century

Tokyo National Museum

Tokyo National Museum
Tokyo, Japan

A representative masterpiece of lacquerware from the Heian period (794-1185), this exquisite toiletry case (J. tebako) is a relatively small example with a lid that fits over the body of the box. The theme of its design of cart wheels in a stream reflects the Heian practice of soaking the wheels of ox carts in water to prevent them from drying out and cracking. A popular theme during the Heian period, this design can also be found on mirrors and the embellished paper used for decorated sutra scrolls.The exterior design comprises a ground of irregularly-shaped gold particles sprinkled densely on black lacquer, on which are depicted the flowing waters and soaking cart wheels represented with gold in aogin togidashi makie and mother-of-pearl inlay (J. raden). For the lacquer technique of togidashi makie, metal powder such as gold or silver is sprinkled on a design executed in lacquer upon which an additional coat of lacquer is applied; after hardening, the entire surface is polished to expose the design. Aogin, a blue-tinted gold color, is a mixture of gold and silver that produces a striking, variable hue depending on the light. Raden is a technique in which materials such as mother-of-pearl are cut into a design and then applied to an object covered with lacquer. The openwork silver fittings on the side of the case are in the same ox-wheel design, and the interior of the box and lid are covered with flying birds and floral motifs in togidashi makie.


  • Title: Tebako (cosmetic box), Design of wheels half submerged in stream in maki-e lacquer and mother-of-pearl inlay
  • Date Created: Heian period, 12th century
  • Physical Dimensions: w306 x h135 x d224 mm
  • Object Title: 片輪車蒔絵螺鈿手箱
  • Object Notes(Japanese): 平安時代の漆工芸を代表する名品である。手箱としては小ぶりで、蓋を身より大きく造ってかぶせる被蓋造り(かぶせぶたづくり)となっている。片輪車は、牛車(ぎっしゃ)の車輪が乾燥して割れるのを防ぐため水に漬けた平安時代の情景を描いたものといわれ、和鏡や装飾経の料紙にも見られるこの時代に好まれた意匠である。 表面は、黒漆を塗った上に不整形な金粉を密にまいて地にし、水の流れとそこに浸された車輪は、金と青金(あおきん)の研出(とぎだし)蒔絵に螺鈿を交じえて描いている。研出蒔絵は、漆で描いた文様に金や銀などの粉をまいてから、さらに漆で塗り込め、乾いた後に研ぎ出す技法。また青みがかった金色の青金は金と銀の合金で、光線によって微妙な色調の変化を見せる。螺鈿は夜光貝などを文様の形に切って、漆を塗った器物に貼る技法である。 側面に付けた銀製の紐金具には、車輪形の透彫をほどこして意匠を統一し、蓋と身の内面にも、研出蒔絵で飛鳥や草花を散らしている。
  • Object Date: 平安時代・12世紀
  • Type: Lacquerware
  • External Link: http://www.emuseum.jp/detail/100197

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