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Writing Box with Spitting Courtesan

Writing Box with Spitting Courtesan


early to mid-1800s

Part of a set. See all set records

Lacquered wood with maki-e (image made of sprinkled gold dust)

Box: 21.6 x 19.8 x 3.2 cm (8 1/2 x 7 13/16 x 1 1/4 in.); Closed: 21 cm (8 1/4 in.); Cover: 20.7 x 20.7 cm (8 1/8 x 8 1/8 in.)

Worcester R. Warner Collection 1963.260



The design on this writing box shows a courtesan who has just completed an impressive feat of spitting the term shinobukoi (忍恋), which could be translated as “hidden love” or “unrequited love,” on an earthen wall. The phrase appeared in classical Japanese poetry anthologies produced by nobles writing in ink on the finest decorated papers. Here, the confining walls of the brothel district become a space for public announcement in graffiti, with the medium being perhaps tea.

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