Japanese Picnic Box
19th century AD

Gallery 26, Ground Floor,
Japanese Decorative Arts Gallery


Focus on the Object

Decoration and Design

The box’s beautiful simplicity of design (its clean lines and precise geometric forms) disguise technical brilliance in decoration and execution. For example the fans on the right hand side are bisected by the edges of the boxes, but notice how they continue almost seamlessly. Look too at how the fans differ in design, colour and decoration, as though the maker is showing off his expertise over a range of lacquer techniques.

The bottom right fan with its gold coloured ground is like a miniature landscape painting, with its depiction of the sea, crags, trees and a man in a boat, plus the smallest hint of mountains in the distance. Some of the others exhibit animals and nature such as trees, birds and tortoises. However, one of the most striking fans is also the most simple: this being the central right fan with a grey/black gradation of colour from top to bottom and sprinkled gold foil resembling a starry sky.