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Box: O.1 & A-H-1947

Object information

Current Location: In storage






Writing box (suzuribako), lacquer. Rectangular with rounded corners, a seated lid (A) and gold rims. It is of small size, probably made for a lady. The roiro ground (black lacquer polished to a deep gloss) is decorated in gold and silver takamakie (high-relief sprinkled design) of a boat with a drum in the stern moored behind a hillock on which grow pine, willow and a cherry tree in bloom. One tufted duck is swimming in the stream, another is perched on a rock (inlaid with silver) nearby. A small bird is singing on the willow. There is a gold character on the trunk of the cherry tree; there are cherry blossom flowers and petals scattered on the ground and in the stream; the sun is a raised shiny gold disc amongst clouds. The mikayeshi (the inside of the lid) shows a gold and a silver vase on stands, the former containing roses with stalks consisting of Japanese characters in gold wire, the latter containing cherry blossom with a character in silver wire. There are swallows and butterflies flying about each vase. The decoration is in gold hiramakie (low-relief sprinkled design). The inside of the lower section is decorated with gold hiramakie design of roses, cherry blossom, swallows and butterflies. The box contains a removable, rectangular ink-stone (B) lacquered on the base in nashiji (shimmering spangles) and resting in a nashiji tray (C) with a plain oblong, silver metal mizuire (water-dropper) (D). It also contains a removable nashiji rack (E), a knife (F) with a gold handle and cover decorated with butterflies and dragonflies, and with a silver mount; there is a gold lacquer utensil (G) with a furled acanthus leaf at one end. There is a cake of ink (H) (which has been used) decorated in gold with cranes and brocade on one side, and with an inscription on the other side: 'Ki? Kaku San,' meaning 'to be reckoned with the tortoise, ? and the crane' in everlasting ink; these are symbols of longevity.


History note: Bought from Mr Fukada, February, 1912

Measurements and weight

Height: 3.2 cm
Length: 17.4 cm
Width: 15.6 cm

Relative size of this object

17.4 cm3.2 cm What does this represent?

Relative size of this object is displayed using code inspired by Good Form and Spectacle's work on the British Museum's Waddeson Bequest website and their dimension drawer. They chose a tennis ball to represent a universally sized object, from which you could envisage the size of an object.

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bequeathed (1947) by Raphael, Oscar C.


Meiji Period (1868-1912)
19th century
Production date: circa AD 1890


The original of this box is known as the Genji Kocho (poetical name for Butterfly), and was made in the Momoyama period; its design being an allusion to the Kocho poem in the Genji Monogatari, a copy of which lies in the outer box. The box itself (which is contained in two outer boxes similar to the original) was made c.1890 by the private lacquer-artist and kept by Mr. A. Fukuda of Kyoto, Yuasa, who died c.1902. Bought from Mr Fukuda, Feb. 1912. R.C. Exhib. 1915, No.6 PL.LVIII (Red Cross Exhibition held in London, 1915). In a separate box is the suzuri bako holder and writing paper.' See the inventory of lacquer from the Raphael Collection, No.6.

Components of the work

Water Dropper composed of metal ( silver-coloured)
Wire composed of gold silver
Knife Handle composed of gold

Materials used in production


Techniques used in production

Lacquering : Writing box, lacquer, the roiro ground (black lacquer polished to a deep gloss) is decorated in takamakie (high-relief sprinkled design), inside of lid decorated in hiramakie (low-relief sprinkled design), parts in nashiji

Inscription or legends present

Inscription present: circular serrated white label

  • Text: MR RAPHAEL
  • Location: Stuck on to base of water dropper
  • Method of creation: Inscribed in black ink
  • Type: Label

Inscription present: 'Ki? Kaku San'

  • Location: On cake of ink
  • Method of creation: Inscribed in everlasting ink

Identification numbers

Accession number: O.1 & A-H-1947
Primary reference Number: 24270
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Tuesday 4 February 2020 Last processed: Sunday 21 March 2021

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Applied Arts

Citation for print

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