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SHIRAYAMA SHOSAI (1853-1923)

Lacquer box decorated with a heron

c. 1890 - 1905

Black, gold and silver lacquer on wood | 23.0 x 27.5 x 33.3 cm (whole object) | RCIN 39503

This box was the first diplomatic gift between Japan and Britain after the Second World War, indicating a new era of friendship. Imperial Household Artist, Shirayama Shōsai, has depicted a heron with remarkable boldness and delicacy, using miniscule streaks of gold to accent the soft silver feathers. The bird contrasts dramatically with the black ground, which has been polished to a mirror-like finish.

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