A Japanese export lacquer incense container, in the shape of a buriburi toy, late 18th/early 19th Century.

The container is decorated with ferns, branches of pine and fruiting citrus tachibana trees, including delicate touches of red lacquer, which are symbolic of the New Year.

On each end there are depicted wish fulfilling jewels, 11.3cm by 6.4cm by 5.9cm.

A combination of techniques was used, including gold, silver and aokin thinly raised makie, cut gold foil and drawn gold lines on a dense pear-skin ground.

A buriburi was a popular toy for boys in the Edo period (1603-1868). It was played with by tying a cord to spin it, or by attaching wheels to pull it.

Exhibited: ‘Export Lacquer: Reflection of the West in Black & Gold Makie.’ 2008, Kyoto Museum & Suntory Museum, Tokyo, Cat. No.216.

Later, objects replicating the buriburi form came to be regarded as amulets that were often exchanged as gifts.

The 1835 Burghley Inventory records: ‘Japan Closet, Japan in the Glass case opposite the door(s), sic, G. J. A Boat shaped Box.’

The 1867 Burghley Inventory records: ‘Cabinets, No 88 Japan Closet, A gold japan boat shaped box.’


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