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taisho period (early 20th century), signed akatsuka jitoku zo [akatsuka jitoku (1871-1936)]
Of rectangular shape with rounded corners designed on the cover and sides with peony-like flowers (shakuyaku) below an imperial sixteen-petal chrysanthemum medallion, the blossoms of purple and white created by pieces of inlaid shells and of gold lacquer and the leaves and veins of the leaves and stems of two colors of gold takamaki-e enriched by kimpun and okibirame, the chrysanthemum medallion kinji and the ground kimpun, the interior and base nashiji and the rims silver, signed on the base in gold lacquer; in wood storage box inscribed on the underside of the lid gohairyo (presented) Taisho 13 (1924), 11th month, 3rd day
11 1/8 x 9 3/8 x 5¾in. (28.2 x 23.7 x 14.3cm.)
Jan Dees, "Japanese Imperial Presentation Boxes 1900-1930," Oriental Art, vol. 43, no. 1 (1997), pp. 2-9; Dees, "Imperial lacquer boxes by Akatsuka Jitoku", Andon, 30 (1988), pp. 103-110.

Lot Essay

Among the small number of imperial lacquer pieces known to survive from the hand of this artist, the sumptuous presentation box shown here stands out as a work of exceptional beauty. Small wonder that this object was selected by Emperor Taisho as an official gift presented on the third day of the eleventh month, the anniversary of the birth of his father, Emperor Meiji, celebrated today as Bunka no hi (Culture day). One Jitoku box in the collection of the British Royal Family at Buckingham Palace was given by Emperor Meiji to Queen Mary in 1911. The first presentation boxes are thought to date from the turn of the century and they are almost always adorned with large imperial chrysanthemum crests.

Born in Tokyo, Akatsuka Jitoku was the seventh generation of a family of lacquer craftsmen. He studied maki-e with his father. In addition to this training in lacquer, however, he learned Nihonga painting from Kano Hisanobu and Terazaki Kogyo (1866-1919) and then went on to study Western-style painting at the Hakubakai Kenkyujo (the Institute of the White Horse Society) in 1912. As a result he was able to modernize his craft by adding an alluring element of Western naturalism to his otherwise very traditional, conservative lacquer techniques. He also worked hard to elevate lacquer into a category that would be included in the Teiten exhibitions. Jitoku won a gold medal at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition. He was active throughout the Taisho and early Showa periods not only as a leading lacquer artist but also as a judge at several kinds of exhibitions. In 1930 he was appointed Imperial Artist, a member of the elite Teikoku geijutsuin (the Imperial Art Academy).

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