A rectangular Japanese export lacquer box for incense selection, late 17th /early 18th Century.

The box is inlaid in silver and gold on a pear-skin ground with a spray of chrysanthemums, pinks and hare’s foot ferns; the pinks formed of imitation coral.

It contains an interior tray and was originally fitted with three covered boxes; two boxes without lids remain, the third box is missing but the lid remains and is decorated with an arrangement of maple leaves in flat makie on a densely coated aokin ground, 8.5cm by 5.4cm by 2.2cm.

The narrow compartment most probably contained collapsible chopsticks used to pass around tiny burning pieces of incense.

There is now only one of these boxes at Burghley, but they were often produced in pairs and it is possible that the following entries relate to this piece.

The 1835 Burghley Inventory records: ‘Japan Closet, Japan in the Glass case opposite the door(s), sic, 2 long square boxes with smaller ones inside Gold Japan.’

The 1867 Burghley Inventory records: ‘Cabinets, No 88 Japan Closet, 2 long square gold japan boxes with smaller boxes inside.’


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