The Great Wave Trunk


 Late Edo period

Circa 1830

Provenance: An esteemed private collection since before 1972

This magnificent red lacquer trunk with its continuous wave is as artistically relevant today as it was 180 years ago when it was created.

The slightly domed lid decorated in low relief with a Hai Riyo ( dragon bird ) in flight amongst cloud scrolls on a sprinkled gold, red ground.  The front depicts a similar Hai Ryo flying above turbulent waves with droplets in mother-of-pearl conveying the spray.  The waves extend around the sides and back of the coffer which has foliate engraved gilt metal mounts and a lock bearing the Go-san-no-kiri (5-3 Paulownia flower) crest.  The interior is lined in the original blue silk fabric decorated with dragon roundels and other motifs.

This tour de force displays the extraordinary creativity and skill of a master craftsman of the late Edo period and was probably created for storing the ceremonial robes of a feudal lord or a highly placed dignitary.

During the Edo Period (1600-1860), in obedience to the law, more than two hundred Daimyos (feudal lords) joined in solemn procession each year between Edo (modern day Tokyo) and their respective domains. Each Daimyo’s entourage could number from one hundred to several thousand, and processions provided an opportunity for the lords to exhibit their wealth and power. Their family crests were displayed on lacquer palanquins, saddles and travelling boxes.

An extract from the 'Works of Chuang Tsze’, chap 1, p.1 by F.H. Balfour F.R.G.S.:

In the Northern Sea there was a fish whose name was Kw'en. It is not known how many thousand li this fish was in length. It was afterwards transformed into a bird caled p'eng, the size of whose back is uncertain by some thousands of li. Suddenly it would dart upwards with rapid flight, it's wings overspreading the sky like clouds. When the waters were agitated ( in the sixth moon) the bird moved its abode to the Southern Sea, the Pool of Heaven.


On the screens decorating the Chi-on-in monastery in Kioto, are depicted several half- bird, half- dragons, which appear to represent the Japanese interpretation of the Chinese Ying Lung or winged dragon.


Measurements: 66 ½” (169cm) Wide;   30 ½” (77.5cm) High;  30" (76cm) Deep.

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