Sagejubako (Picnic Set), 17th - 19th century
Lacquer and gold on wood 12 3/8 in. x 16 in. x 6 3/8 in. (31.43 cm x 40.64 cm x 16.19 cm)
Crocker Art Museum, gift of Dorothy Vaughn Manor2007.65
Prior to the 17th century, wooden and lacquer utensils were more commonly used for dining in Japan than ceramics. During the Edo Period, picnic sets of a type devised during the Momoyama period were popularly used on outings such as cherry-blossom viewing. Typically, the lacquered set had a metal handle on top and was fitted with a set of tiered boxes (jubako) that held four or five small serving dishes, a tray, and a sake container.
Lacquer production was at its height at the end of the 16th and early 17th centuries. Various techniques were used in decorating this bento box, including stenciling, applique, and takamakie (high-relief gold lacquer). The artist also used the makie process of sprinkling silver or gold powders on the painted lacquer pattern while it was still wet. Elsewhere, the oki-birame technique is used, as individually inlaid pieces of gold foil were used to build up a decorative motif.
When first applied, the lacquer was black, but after a hundred years or so it turned brown. The stacked boxes in this set are boldly decorated with disparate patterns—landscapes, fans, cranes, pine trees, and leaves. More frequently, the decoration in these sets focuses on a common theme. However, the use of bold patterning has precedent in Noh robes contemporary with this piece. One of the boxes bears a Tokugawa crest.1