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African, Asian, and Islamic Art

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Gold Lacquer Writing Box with Cranes

Artist: Unknown Japanese Artist Primary
19th century
Dimensions: 1.5 x 8.75 x 8.25 in. (3.81 x 22.23 x 20.96 cm)
Object Type: Utilitarian Object
Creation Place: Asia, Japan
Medium and Support: Black lacquer, gold and silver foil details
Credit Line: Partial Gift of Erik Thomsen Gallery and 2016 Museum Patron's Circle Purchase (2016.23.1)
Accession Number: 2016.23.01
On View: Bellarmine Hall Galleries

The high esteem accorded to the culture of writing in Japan can be seen in the number of surviving exquisitely-produced suzuribako. These “inkstone boxes” held writing implements, including the inkstone, or suzuri. The writer would grind an ink stick and then blend it with water inside the suzuri to reach a desired consistency of ink. The lacquered surface of the suzuribako, decorated with gold, was not only aesthetically pleasing but also auspicious; the cranes depicted on the lid of this box, for example, were signs of good luck as they were believed to live for one thousand years.


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