A Makie Lacquer Kogo with Seashell Designs – Edo
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Directory: Hidden: Viewable: Pre 1900: item # 979882
Please refer to our stock # 46-B when inquiring.
Ichiban Japanese & Oriental Antiques
Post Office Box 395
Marion, CT 06444-0395
This is a handsome lacquer kogo with a very interesting design of seashells done in indented depressions. One seashell has a design of branch of plum blossoms with a distant scene of hills. The second shell has a design of what appear to be maple leaves – again with distant hills. The third shell has a design of random streaks.
On the two long sides there are two sprigs of branches of some sort. The interior has a lovely mottles nashiji (pear skin) with dark and light golds. The base is a regular gold nashiji color. The kogo measures 3 1/8” long by 2 ¾” wide by 1 ½” high. It is in excellent condition with 3-4 frits on the inside rim out of sight and the normal very fine light scratches from use.
The inside of the bottom half of the piece has a three-character mark that a Japanese colleague of mine has translated. It appears that it was not a signature – it was a price. The characters translate as "Gojyu-ni monme"(52 monme), a monetary value during the Edo period. Thus, the characters represent the price of the kogo.
A ryō was a gold piece in pre-Meiji Japan. It was worth about sixty monme of silver or four kan (4,000 coins) of copper (the exchange rate fluctuated). It was eventually replaced with a system based on the yen. The Keichō koban, a gold piece, contained about one ryō of gold, so that koban carried a face value of one ryō. A ryō was a gold piece in pre-Meiji Japan. It was worth about sixty monme of silver or four kan (4,000 coins) of copper (the exchange rate fluctuated).
We can only guess at the value of 52 monme at the time this kogo was made. The mon was a currency of Japan from the Muromachi period in 1336, until 1870. Coins denominated in mon were cast in copper or iron and circulated alongside silver and gold ingots denominated in shu, bu and ryō, with 16 shu = 4 bu = 1 ryo. The yen replaced these denominations in 1870.
We believe that the kogo was made In the late Edo period, circa 1825-1850s. By the end of Edo 1860, 1 Ryo was valued at about 3 -4,000 Yen, which is about $30-40 in today's money – however, in the middle Edo 1 Ryo was about $1200-$1300 then. Therefore, the kogo cost somewhere between $40 and $1,200 at the time it was made. It certainly is worth a great deal more now.