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365 Days of Art Archive - Japanese collection

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From the Japanese collection.


The delicate patterns in gold on the garment of Kujaku-Myōō, a Buddhist king, are created with very thin strips of gold leaf that are adhered to the silk, a meticulous process called kirikane.

From the Japanese collection.


Made from a wooden core covered with layers of black and red lacquer, this ewer bears the results of wear that have revealed the dark ground through the red surface layers; this is considered to be desirable and adds value to the piece.

From the Japanese collection.

The River Bridge at Uji

During the Momoyama period, a time of military struggle in Japan, a new type of castle architecture developed with thick walls and small windows. Brilliantly gilded screens with light-reflective surfaces, such as this pair, brightened the dark rooms.

From the Japanese collection.

Soldier’s Hat with Nabeshima Family Crest

The armor and helmets worn in battle and ceremonial pageants by Japan’s military warriors were symbols of their rank. This lacquered helmet with mother of pearl inlay bearing the crest of the Nabeshima family crest was for ceremonial use only.

From the Japanese collection.


The plum and pine plants depicted in the lively drawing on this large lacquered sake (rice wine) bottle are associated with winter, so it is likely that the bottle was used during the festive New Year’s holiday season.

From the Japanese collection.

Striding Lion: Mount for the Buddhist Deity Monju

The realistic sense of muscular power and motion depicted in the body of this growling lion are hallmarks of the naturalism and dramatic expressiveness characteristic of Kamakura period sculpture.

From the Japanese collection.

Pine and Plum by Moonlight

Although the structure of Japanese folding screens may appear to be simple, it is a complicated construction of a wood frame with multiple layers of paper laid horizontally and vertically in a way that “breathes,” allowing the screen to react to changes i

From the Japanese collection.

Nō mask of a youthful attendant (Kashiki)

This mask representing a young boy was used in Nō theater, a ritual drama for elite members of the Japanese samurai (warrior) class in which the actors wear masks to represent a set of standard characters.

From the Japanese collection.

Square Dish

The rich, creamy surface of this dish was created by an application of a thick, white glaze, which was poured over the plant design brushed onto the body in iron oxide, a mineral pigment.

From the Japanese collection.


Hanging scroll paintings, such as this one of chrysanthemums, were admired for their beautiful ornamental arrangements of colorful blossoms, but flowers also conveyed meaning: the chrysanthemum signifies autumn and is considered to be auspicious and capab

From the Japanese collection.

Spring and Autumn with Children Playing on the Seashore

The artist of this painting, Maruyama Ōkyo, inaugurated a new style of painting that combined decorative traditions with elements of realism, inspired in part by the artist’s study of Western prints which incorporated the technique of linear perspective.

From the Japanese collection.

Jizō Bosatsu

Jizō Bosatsu, a wise and powerful Buddhist divinity, is the protector of expectant mothers, children, warriors, travelers and sufferers in Hell.

From the Japanese collection.

Water Jar

The textured glaze dripping down the sides of this water jar is caused by bits of wood and ash floating about in the kiln’s interior that settle on the surface and meld with the clay during the firing process.

From the Japanese collection.

Episode from the "Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon"

This image, inspired by stories from a diary kept by an 11th-century court lady, is one episode cut from what was once a long handscroll, the oldest form of narrative illustration in Asia.

From the Japanese collection.

Illustration from Tale of Ise

One of the 125 leaves that made up an album illustrating the Tale of Ise, this scene depicts a courtly man and woman on their way to visit the Grand Shrine at Ise; part of the red torii, or shrine gate, is visible at the upper left.

From the Japanese collection.

Sake Bottle

Wealthy and cultured Japanese once used this bottle as an elegant serving container for sake (rice wine).

From the Japanese collection.

Large Plate with Leaf Design

The bold graphic design of this porcelain plate is achieved by alternating the blue and white from leaf to leaf: the center leaf’s vein is blue, while the outside leaves’ veins are white.

From the Japanese collection.

The Enthronement Ceremony of Empress Meishō

Empress Meishō ascended the throne at the age of five, as the first Empress to reign in Japan in a thousand years.

From the Japanese collection.

Half of a Temple Drum Frame

This ornate lacquered and gilded frame, carved with flickering flames and a golden dragon, is one half of an immense frame designed to hold a large, circular drum, which provided the bass percussion parts during elaborate Buddhist ritual dances.

From the Japanese collection.

Tiered Writing Box

This tiered writing box, with compartments for ink, brushes, paper and an inkstone, combines many types of lacquer techniques such as suspending particles of gold in the layers of lacquer; this is called maki-e, which translates to “sprinkled picture.”

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