Past Exhibitions

Lacquered Cosmetic and Toiletry Implements
February 11, 2020 - February 26, 2020

While it may seem strange today, cosmetics such as white face powder (oshiroi) and teeth blackener (ohaguro) were used by both male and female aristocrats in early Japan. For that reason, the luxurious toiletry cases from the past were used not only by women but also by men. Some were made for "use" by male or female Shinto gods. Lacquer artisans produced customized utensils for everything from coiffing hair to perfuming garments with incense.

Artisans decorated such wooden boxes and implements in the most luxurious way possible by using the technique of makie, in which patterns are made by sprinkling gold and silver powders onto wet lacquer. By the Edo period (1615–1868), the newly wealthy members of the merchant class were following the customs of the aristocratic and warrior elite, ordering elaborate makie wedding trousseaus for their daughters. These gorgeously embellished makie cosmetic and toiletry implements must have been much coveted by young townswomen.

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