Jyūbako, five-tiered food box with motif of “Shikunshi (Four Noble Ones)”
Lacquer on wood
Yuasa Kagyō (1875-1952)
Showa period, 20th century
H:44cm, L:23.5cm, D:24.2cm
Original box with artist’s signature
<On the cover box >
Surface: Shikunshi makie roiro godan jyūbako (Four Noble Ones makie on the black lacquer, five-tiered box)
Inside: Kagyō saku (made by Kagyō)

Jyūbako is a set of tiered lacquered boxes to put food on the occasions “hare-no-hi”, as the day of celebration. The designs put on this box are often very auspicious classical motives.
Shikunshi is translated to “Four Noble Ones” in English. And in Chinese art, it represents four plants: the plum blossom, the orchid, the bamboo and the chrysanthemum. These plants have been praised because of highly dignified beauty, and have been used often in the Chinese paintings since the Song dynasty. Each plant symbolizes four seasons; the orchid expresses the spring, the bamboo expresses the summer, the chrysanthemum expresses the fall and the plum blossom expresses the winter.
The artist put the black lacquer at the beginning, and lacquered four plants with gold taka-makie lacquer technique. The composition is exquisite on taking the moderate blanc space. By making use of the characteristic of the square box, the plants expand and continue in all aspects even as if it is a three-dimensional painting. The exquisite composition and painting tell us that the artist was a master craftsman without doubt.
Yuasa Kagyō was known as a master lacquer artist in Kyoto. He was fond of the classical and elegant motives.