Japanese Antiques by Ichiban Oriental and Asian Art

Japanese Tobacco tray TABAKO-BON Negoro Lacquer

Japanese Tobacco tray TABAKO-BON Negoro Lacquer

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Japanese: Lacquer: Pre 1910: Item # 1226577

Please refer to our stock # 75 when inquiring.
This is a Tobacco tray called a TABAKO-BON of Japanese made of the lovely Negoro lacquer. It dates from the late Meiji period, circa 1850 - 1905. The box measures 6 5/8" square and is 3 1/8" at the rims. Negoro lacquer ware is lacquer ware of Wakayama Prefecture with the oldest history in Japan. Tobacco was known in Japan since the 1570s at the earliest. By the early 17th century, kiseru had become popular enough to even be mentioned in some Buddhist textbooks for children. The kiseru evolved along with the equipment and use of incense associated with the Kōdō - in turn, the kō-bon, an incense tray, became the tabako-bon, a tobacco tray.

The characters on the bottom of the box have been translated as - "Congratulations for Graduation, Yamabe Social Gathering Group." We have no idea who that group might have been - nor how many of these boxes were made and handed out at a graduation ceremony.

The box is in generally good condition - there is one scrape measuring about 1 1/8" on the base of the box - see photo. There are a couple of minor rim frits and a slight separation of a side from the base at one corner.

During the Kamakura period (1192 - 1333), the priests who had moved from temples on Mt. Koya to Negoroji temple in Kii province started producing these various utensils for use at the temple. The red-lacquered utensils produced at Negoroji came to be called negoro-nuri; and as use of the name spread, all red lacquered items came to be called negoro-nuri. Most negoro-nuri consists of coatings of black lacquer covered with coatings of red lacquer. After the wear-and-tear of many years of use, the red lacquer is worn away, exposing the black lacquer coating underneath in various places. The lacquer coating degrades, which causes fine cracks to appear and gives the surface a unique weathered appearance that cannot be replicated.

Negoro ware is named after its original place of manufacture at the Negoro temple in Japan's Kii Province during the fourteenth century. The objects are carved or turned from wood and then lacquered, first with black and then with vermilion. Negoro wares are greatly prized for their appearance of antiquity, when with time the black layer becomes visible in patches through the vermilion layer. In modern times their simple yet powerful shapes are greatly admired.

Ref.- L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)