Box for personal accessories (tebako)

Historical period(s)
Momoyama or Edo period, early 17th century
Lacquer and gold on wood; metal rims and fittings
H x W x D (overall): 19.7 x 30.4 x 26.6 cm (7 3/4 x 11 15/16 x 10 1/2 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Container, Lacquer


Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, Momoyama period (1573 - 1615), wisteria

To 1907
Unidentified owner, Japan, to 1907 [1]

From 1907 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased in Japan from an unidentified owner in 1907 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] See Original Miscellaneous List, S.I. 1207, pg. 27, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919


Tebako were portable boxes that usually held sets of smaller, similarly decorated boxes that would contain a woman's toiletries, combs, mirrors and other personal items. The striking decorative style of this example is known as Kodaiji maki-e, named after the mortuary temple in Kyoto dedicated to the memory of the powerful warrior Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598). Professional lacquerers of the Koami school, who were commissioned to produce the architectural decoration and objects for the Kodaiji, employed distinctive designs featuring relatively flat, large-scale motifs simply delineated in fine gold powder in the technique termed maki-e and reddish gold-flecked technique known as nashiji.

The fresh, vibrant style associated with Kodaiji appealed to the taste for innovative design that prevailed in Kyoto at the turn of the seventeenth century. The decoration of this box is divided diagonally into broad zones with two different motifs--wisteria and seashells with seaplants--set against contrasting grounds of nashiji and black lacquer. 

Published References
  • Ann Yonemura. Japanese Lacquer. Washington, 1979. cat. 6, p. 18.
  • Ellen Roberts. A Marriage of the Extreme East and the Extreme West: Japanism and Aestheticism in Louis Comfort Tiffany's Rooms in the Bella Apartments. vol. 8, no. 2 New York, 2006. p. 37, fig. 27.
  • Linda Merrill. The Peacock Room: A Cultural Biography. Washington and New Haven. p. 237, fig. 6.2.
  • Edwards Park. Treasures from the Smithsonian Institution., 1st ed. Washington and New York. p. 358.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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