Writing Box, Design of scene illustrating a poem about Mt. Otoko-yama in maki-e lacquer

Muromachi period, 15th century

Tokyo National Museum

Tokyo National Museum
Tokyo, Japan

This piece is an over-lapping lid style (kabusebuta-zukuri) writing box, with each corner cut off (sumikiri) and the edges beveled (mentori). It has a black-lacquer finish, with fine pearskin decoration (nashiji) applied on both sides of the lid, the inside bottom of the box (mikomi) and even the corners of the nesting boxes (kakego).At the center of the inside of the box (minouchi), there is a gourd-shaped gilt bronze water-dropper and an inkstone with edges that are sprinkled with gold dust, with nesting boxes on both sides. This is the typical structure of double-nesting boxes, often seen in writing boxes from the Muromachi period.The picture on the outside of the lid is of a landscape (sansui-ga) motif. In the foreground are autumn plants such as the chrysanthemum, the fringed pink and the balloonflower; in the background are gentle-sloped mountains. The pictures on the backside of the lid and mikomi, show a different style finely depicting a religious hall (shaden) by a river. The main techniques used are gold raised makie (takamakie) and burnished makie (togidashi makie), with a variety of others including: flat makie (hiramakie), a combination of raised makie and burnished makie (shishiai togidashi makie), drawing with narrow lacquer lines and oversprinkling with gold and/or silver filings (tsukegaki), engraving in lacquer with a needle (harigaki) and cut metal shapes (kirikane). The combination of these techniques exemplifies the high point of the makie art, which reached its pinnacle about the time this piece was made.In the pictures there are characters such as代々 (over generations), 男 (otoko, man), よ (interjectory particle), 里 (village), 仰 (look up at), 出 (to come out) and かけ(kake), which are written with imbedded silver sheets (hyoumon). This indicates that the motifs of the pictures were taken from a waka poem in the ninth scroll of Shoku Gosen Wakashu by Minamoto no Masazane. This poem reads, "Keep on shining, the moon, over generations and generations. I am looking up at Mt. Otoko now, the moon is rising up from the ridge." This approach to designing is called ashide, where one uses the words from a waka both as decoration and as the source of inspiration. Ashide was frequently used at the time.


  • Title: Writing Box, Design of scene illustrating a poem about Mt. Otoko-yama in maki-e lacquer
  • Date Created: Muromachi period, 15th century
  • Physical Dimensions: w214 x h50 x d227 mm
  • Object Title: 男山蒔絵硯箱
  • Object Notes(Japanese): 角切(すみきり)、面取のある被蓋造(かぶせぶたづくり)の箱で、全体に黒漆を塗り、蓋の表裏から見込、懸子(かけご)の端にいたるまで密な梨子地に仕立てている。身の内中央には瓜を象った金銅製の水滴と、縁に金粉を蒔きつけた硯とを嵌(は)め込み、左右に懸子を収める。室町期の硯箱によく見受けられる、伝統的な二枚懸子の構成である。 蓋表の文様は、遠景になだらかに連なる山々、近景に菊・撫子(なでしこ)・桔梗(ききょう)などの秋草を配した山水図風のものだが、蓋裏から見込にかけけては、これとやや趣を異にして、流水のほとりに建つ舎殿が精細な筆致で描かれる。技法は金の高蒔絵、研出(とぎだし)蒔絵が主体で、これにあわせて平蒔絵、肉合(ししあい)研出蒔絵、付描、針描、截金(きりかね)などさまざまな手法が駆使されている。蒔絵の技術がほぼ完成の域に達したこの時期にふさわしい技巧的な表現といえよう。 なお、硯箱を飾る各画面には、「代々・男・よ・里・仰・出・かけ」などの文字が銀の平文(ひょうもん)で書き込まれて、この意匠が『続後撰和歌集』巻9、源雅実の歌   なほてらせ代々にかはらず男山       あふぐ峯よりいずる月影 によるものであることが知られる。やはり当時流行の蘆手の手法によるデザインである。
  • Object Date: 室町時代・15世紀
  • Type: Lacquerware
  • External Link: http://www.emuseum.jp/detail/100529

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