Imaizumi Seishi

Maki-e Incense Box with a Portrait of Murasaki Shikibu

Inv. Nr.  #17.022
Date Taishō/ early Shōwa
Material

Wood, black, gold and silver lacquer

Dimensions H 2,6 x Diam. 7,6 cm

In excellent condition, with signed wooden box

This luxurious maki-e incense box was made by the great pre-war Taishō/Shōwa-period lacquer master Imaizumi Seishi. Against a black-lacquered and gold-spinkled polished togidashi background, the exterior of the box is finished with a delicate takamaki-e  imaginary portrait of the famous Heian-period (794-1185) court novelist Murasaki Shikibu (10./11. C.) watching falling autumn leaves.

 

The wonderful arrangement is catching an intimate moment: The lady is elegantly hiding her noble face behind a fan and possibly contemplating the impermanence of all worldly phenomena (mujō 無常) whilst watching a falling red colored maple leaf. Her face is modeled in a semi-relief takamaki-e technique with rounded cheeks and black pupils beneath the tiny eyelids of her half-closed eyes. Her black hair is scratched and retouched with black lacquer - even thinner than real human hair - in this technical master piece.

 

Imaizumi Seishi is one of the renown Japanese lacquer masters from the pre-war Taishō and Shōwa period. He was specialized on inrō and has been board member of the Tōkyō Maki-e Lacquer Association. Although, there is not much recorded about his life, his objects are illustrating his high technical achievement of the Japanese maki-e lacquer art. They are held in several collections such as the Kiyomizu Sannenzaka Museum in Kyoto, which has one of the finest maki-e collections in the world.