490. A Japanese Lacquer Karabitsu

Object description
A JAPANESE BRASS-MOUNTED LACQUER KARABITSU, of rectangular form with lift off cover raised on six splayed legs, all sides decorated in gold 'Taka maki-e' with stylised bamboo, plum and pine, 'The Three Friends of Winter', engraved metal mounts, Meiji period (1868-1912), c. 47 x 69, height c. 46 cm

Purchased in Japan 1922-1923, by the Swedish Rear Admiral Sten Ankarcrona (1861-1936).

The karabitsu has been used in Japan since the Nara period (645-794) for the storage of samurai armour and other precious objects. The chest is highly functional for storage in a humid climate and attractive for display in the sparely furnished interiors of traditional architecture.

'The Three Friends of Winter', bamboo, pine and plum are grouped together in the context of winter because they all flourish at that season, in harsh environments. They became symbols that encouraged people to persevere in adversity, providing inspiration through consolation and determination. In Japan, they are particularly associated with the start of the Lunar New Year.