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Creator Nationality: Japanese
Creator Dates/Places: Japan
Creator Active Place: Japan
Creator Name-CRT: Japan, Ryukyu Islands, Edo Period
Title: Tiered Food Box with Stand
Title Type: Primary
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1766
Creation End Date: 1799
Creation Date: Late 18th Century
Object Type: Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Classification Term: Lacquer
Materials and Techniques: red lacquer over a wood core, with litharge painting and engraved gold designs
Dimensions: Overall: 53cm x 68cm
AMICA Contributor: The Cleveland Museum of Art
Owner Location: Cleveland, Ohio, USA
ID Number: 1989.5.a
ID Number: 1989.5.b
Credit Line: Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund
Context: Extending south from the islands between Kyushu and Taiwan, the Ryukyu Islands form an important historical, ethnic, and cultural link between the continent and Japan. These islands had been united as an independent kingdom since at least the fourteenthcentury, when written documents note contact with the Chinese as well as internal political conflicts. The Ryukyus were geographically well situated to participate in maritime commerce between Southeast Asia and East Asia, especially for traders from China and Japan. But the islands also had a distinct cultural identity, as can be seen in their textiles, ceramics, architecture, basketry, and lacquerwares. While contacts with China and Japan were frequent, the Ryukyus maintained their independence, with acapital on Okinawa, until being annexed in 1872 by the Japanese. Thus, while the early lacquers of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries reflect strong influences from Chinese monochrome or inlay lacquer types, by the sixteenth century a Ryukyuan lacquer style as well as special techniques of fabrication were in place. Such pieces were eagerly sought after by knowledgeable Japanese collectors, for their special "flavor," shapes, and combination of materials. Tea patrons sought them out as accessories thatbrought a special nuance to the tea ceremony. And, unlike comparable Chinese types, they were less costly. Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of modern Japan, assembled hundreds of Ryukyu lacquerwares in his lifetime and enjoyed using them. This large pentagonal food box was also meant to be used as a kind of portable dinner set. Three fitted trays and a lid are stacked together and rest on a carved stand with five feet. The distinctively Ryukyuan red lacquer surface has two principal designs: a lid with intertwined imperial dragons and lateral surfaces with assorted floral patterns. All these designs are executed in two techniques: incised lines cut through the lacquer and into the wooden core that are then painted with gold; and oil-base pigments in avariety of tones (litharge painting). The result is an imposing architectural structure, inventively decorated with emblems combining references to the imperial lineage (dragons) and the Buddhist world of transience (lotus flowers). This food box was no doubt intended to be used for only very special occasions. M.R.C.
AMICA ID: CMA_.1989.5.a-b
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights:
Copyright, The Cleveland Museum of Art
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