Somada school, 19th century

Kobako - incense container

A tiered kobako (incense container) in the form of a Yamabushi’s oibako. (A Yamabushi is a mountain dwelling monk of the Shugendo- tradition. They carried a box container on their backs to hold personal belongings and ritual objects).

The sides of the container are richly decorated with designs of the seven flowers of autumn (nanakusa) in gold and silver takamakie with inlays of coloured aogai (haliotis shell). The different shades of colour: pinks, blues and greens, are brilliantly distributed among the various blooms, lighting up the plain black roiro lacquer ground. The cover is decorated with takamakie phoenixes in flight. The interior is in thick silver nashiji. Together with a summer cotton shifuku (a fitted cloth pouch with a drawstring top).

The Somada school of lacquering was considered to be ‘founded’ by Somada Kiyosuke (known as Yahei), born in Kyoto in 1633. He emulated the techniques of Chinese Ming style of Aogai Chobei. In 1678 he was invited by the Daimyo of Toyama to serve as his official aogai shell inlay lacquer artist. The tradition of appointing an official ‘blue shell inlay’ artists in Toyama continued throughout the Edo era. Although Wrangham records twelve artists, many pieces are unsigned. The pieces produced were often made a presentation gifts for other daimyo, or as part of a wedding trousseau, or for a nobleman cultivated in the art of kodo 香道 (The Way of Fragrance).

Kobako - incense container
Kobako - incense container

Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.5 x 6.5cm

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