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Cosmetic Box (tebako)




Edo period (1615-1868)


Cosmetic Box (tebako)


About 1800-1850


Maki-e lacquer on wood, pewter


9 x 19 x 22.8 cm


Gift of F. Gerald Robinson, inv. 1962.Ee.3


Archeology and World Cultures

The scenes on this cosmetic box (tebako) are from The Tale of Genji (Genji Monogatari), an early eleventh-century romantic novel by the Heian court lady Murasaki Shikibu. The tale recounts the fictional exploits of Prince Genji, the son of an emperor. A masterpiece of Japanese literature, the novel inspired generations of artists, including lacquer masters. The scenes depicted here are from one of the episodes where Genji orders two Chinese-style pleasure boats to be built for ladies of the court so that they may savour the beauty of nature in springtime. The cover shows ladies on a phoenix boat, while the interior tray shows them on a dragon boat.

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