Incense box and tray

Cryptomeria wood incense box and tray with a monkey design in lacquer decoration.

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Historical period(s)
Edo period or Meiji era, 19th century
Wood with lacquer decoration
H x W x D: 9.2 x 19.3 x 24.1 cm (3 5/8 x 7 5/8 x 9 1/2 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Container, Lacquer

Incense box

Buddhism, chrysanthemum, Edo period (1615 - 1868), incense, Japan, Lokapala, Meiji era (1868 - 1912), monkey, nighthawk, vajra
Provenance research underway.

Cryptomeria wood incense box and tray with a monkey design in lacquer decoration.


Ogawa Haritsu (1663-1747), known also as Ritsuo, accomplished a subtle revolution in the creation of writing boxes and other writing instruments. His ingenious manipulation of nontraditional materials such as ceramic and found objects; emphasis on the contrast between plain, weathered wood and highly polished elements of ceramic and metal; and frequent use of trompe l'oeil, using lacquer to imitate diverse materials, expanded the expressive potential of the lacquered stationery box. In the late nineteenth century, Shibata Zeshin (1807-1891) was the central force in a revival and amplification of Ritsuo's vision. This box, by an unknown artist, seems to be a product of that revival.

On the cover, in a parody of scholarly examination of a painting, three monkeys studiously observe a painting that features the flight of the yodaka (night hawk), a word in the Edo period associated with "night stalkers" or streetwalkers. The interior cover depicts the statue of a Buddhist guardian figure placed on a Chinese-style table with an adjacent spray of chrysanthemums.

Published References
  • Ann Yonemura. Japanese Lacquer. Washington, 1979. cat. 26, p. 54.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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