This exquisitely delicate box shows not only a profusion of beautifully carved flowers in various coloured shells but also tiny iridescent insects, including bees, butterflies and dragonflies, their abdomens of richly stained ivory. Inside the box and lid is a dense speckled dark coppery gold lacquer framed by a silver rim. The signature is found on the inside of the lid and underneath are shaped silver feet.
Shibayama was initially used to decorate inro (a container for medicine or a seal) in the Edo period and is the art of inlaying coral, mother of pearl, ivory and other precious materials into a lacquer base. It gained popularity in the Meiji period with the work of Onogi Senzo of Shibayama who became known as Shibayama Senzo and who mastered this technique, making wonderfully elaborate screens, panels and other objects for the export market. Shibayama has now become the accepted term for this style of Japanese craftsmanship.