Asian Art
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
PrevNext2 of 2
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery

Writing Box (Suzuribako)

17th–18th century

Black lacquer on wood with sprinkled gold dust and inlaid mother-of-pearl (maki-e), with an inkstone and a metal water dropper

1 5/16 × 7 5/8 × 8 7/16 in. (3.3 × 19.4 × 21.4 cm)
Gift of the Yale University Art Gallery Governing Board in honor of Louisa Cunningham
The image of a waterwheel amid a river gushing under a bridge alludes to the Uji River, which runs through Uji City south of Kyoto and is a literary trope in classical waka poetry. The use of an asymmetrical scene was a departure in lacquer design during the early Edo period, inspired in part by painting styles that developed during the preceding Momoyama period. The writing box contains an inkstone (suzuri), on which an ink stick (sumi) is rubbed with water to produce ink in a variety of tonal gradations. The quantity of ink held in the brush can be adjusted against the slope and edge of the stone.
Not on view
Edo period (1615–1868)
Containers - Lacquer

Purchased from Klaus Naumann, Tokyo, 1981.


Denise Patry Leidy, Mother-of-Pearl: A Tradition in Asian Lacquer (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2006), fig. 39.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.