Japanese Shibayama Box

Meiji Period (1868-1912) Circa 1890

Signed 'Masamitsu'

This exquisitely delicate box shows not only a profusion of beautifully carved flowers in various coloured shells but also tiny iridescent insects, including bees, butterflies and dragonflies, their abdomens of richly stained ivory. Inside the box and lid is a dense speckled gold lacquer framed by a silver rim. The signature is found on the inside of the lid and underneath are shaped silver feet.

Height 4.5 cm Width 10 cm Depth 8 cm (2 x 4 x 3.25 in)

Shibayama was initially used to decorate inro (a container for medicine or a seal) in the Edo period and is the art of inlaying coral, mother of pear, ivory and other precious materials into a lacquer base. It gained popularity in the Meiji period with the work of Onogi Senzo of Shibayama who became known as Shibayama Senzo and who mastered this technique, making wonderfully elaborate screens, panels and other objects for the export market. Shibayama has now become the accepted term for this style of Japanese craftsmanship.

Japanese Imperial Craftsmen, Meiji Art from the Khalili Collection, by Victor Harris, pub. British Museum Press 1994

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