Picnic set

Black and gold lacquer sageju-bako (picnic box) decorated with floral motifs in hiramaki-e. It includes a sake bottle, a four-compartment box with nashi-ji lacquer inside, a simple tray and a hollow tray. At the top, there is a bronze handle for transport.

The sageju-bako is divided into four superimposed boxes for food on the left; a simple tray, a sake bottle and a hollow tray on the right. They are in the shape of a plum blossom.
On the top, on both sides a phoenix. The phoenix (hôo) has an imperial and solar symbolism. This auspicious bird also embodies virtues taken from the teachings of Confucius (such as goodness, righteousness and wisdom).
The left boxes are patterned with turtles, plum tree, bamboo, cherry blossoms, water plantains near rivers. The two trays on the right have a shell and seaweed pattern. The sake bottle is decorated with a plum tree and bamboo.
On the sides, calabash decoration. Borders in saya (or sayagata) pattern, composed of Chinese swastikas. This symbol, linked to Buddhism, represents qualities of intelligence, strength and peace. It is a good omen.

The sageju-bako developed during the Edo period (1603-1868). The urban population had new practices, such as picnicking under cherry blossoms in spring, under maple leaves in autumn or attending kabuki plays. The picnic box tends to facilitate the transportation of food and drink for these moments of pleasure, relaxation and poetry. The West appreciated this type of object from the 17th century for its exotic side. Collectors of the 19th century found known scenes through Japanese prints, at that time, widely imported and diffused in Europe[1]. For example, there are the Large flowers series by Katsushika Hokusai (1833-1834), or A selection of Ten Flowers (Tosei rokkasen) by Utagawa Hiroshige (1854-1858).

A similar sageju-bako in the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nancy, 18th-19th century, inv. AD 529[2].

Japan, Meiji period (1868-1912)Height 10.2” (26 cm) – width: 11.8” (30 cm) – depth: 6.3” (16 cm)

[1] Geneviève LACAMBRE (dir.), L’Or du Japon. Laques anciens des collections publiques françaises [cat. Expo. Monastère royal de Brou à Bourg-en-Bresse, 2 mai – 25 juillet 2010 ; Musée des Beaux-Arts d’Arras, 28 août – 21 novembre 2010], Saint-Etienne: IAC Éditions d’art, 2010, p. 189
[2] Ibid.