photo: SAIKI Taku

Box, “Izayoi,” chinkin

ArtistMAE Fumio
Material/ TechniqueJapanese lacquer, wood
Size/ DurationH11.6×W17.8×D17.8cm
Copyright Notice© MAE Fumio
Year of acquisition/ donation2000
DescriptionBorn in Ishikawa, Japan in 1940. Lives and works there.

After graduating in 1963 from Kanazawa College of Art in Nihonga painting, Mae Fumio began studying ‘chinkin’ (lacquerware with gold inlay) under the instruction of his father, MAE Taiho, who was a Holder of an Important Intangible Cultural Property (Living National Treasure) in the craft. In conventional chinkin techniques, the gold inlay is flat and mostly linear, but Mae uses the various traditional techniques he inherited, including stipple engraving, line engraving, and fine-line engraving, along with techniques involving the use of chisels he developed himself after much trial and error to create works noted for their depth and lyricism. In 1999 Mae was designated a Holder of an Important Intangible Cultural Property in chinkin.

This work was created by rounding a box made by layering multiple panels of wood and then lacquering and coloring the entire surface with platinum. Two of the four sections formed by the two diagonal lines crossing in the middle were colored carbon black and the box was then inlayed with gold to portray bush clover. ‘Chinkin’ is a coloring technique in which a pattern is engraved into the surface of a piece of lacquerware after which lacquer is rubbed and gold leaf or powder is then embedded into the engravings. Here, the black areas represent the dark of night and the white areas swathes of moonlight, while the tiny inlaid pieces of abalone shell represent dew in a field of bush clover glistening blue in the moonlight. When the lid is opened, an image of a sixteen-day-old moon (izayoi) appears on the side of the inside of the box. Possessing a unique grace and brimming with poetic sentiment, this work is the product of rigorous technique and precise workmanship perfected over years of highly disciplined training.