About tomobako‘共箱’

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Today I will write about tomobako.

A tomobako is a box containing a hanging scroll that has been titled, signed, and sealed by the artist.
We can see tomobako from works from the end of the Edo period to the Meiji period or later.

As far as I know, I have rarely seen tomobako by Edo period painters.
For example, I have never seen tomobako by famous painters such as Tani Buncho, Maruyama Okyo, and Kano Tanyu.
This is probably because there was no such tomobako custom at that time.
(The custom of tomobako is said to have existed since the Muromachi period, but I have never seen tomobako by painters of the mid-Edo period.)

Conversely, if you find a paulownia box signed "by the artist" for a painter up to the mid-Edo period, you should be careful about authenticity before looking at the contents.
It is sometimes seen that a malicious vendor has imitated the artist's own handwriting and written it as tomobako in later times.
However, most of the time, it is not the artist himself but his later disciples, connoisseurs, or descendants who appraise the work and write the boxed signature on the box of an Edo period painter.

If nothing is written on the box, does it mean that the value of the work is lower?
Not necessarily.
In the case of painters of the Edo period, it is rather common that they are not tomobako.
In the case of painters from the end of the Edo period to after the Meiji period, or more specifically, painters who were active after the 1920s, it is better to have a tomobako than not to have one.

However, there are many fake tomobako.
Especially in the case of famous painters, the materials used for paulownia boxes and sumi ink are of high quality, so we pay attention to the materials used.

The color of the seal stamped on the box (different painters use different colors of red ink) and the font of the title written on the front (characters other than the name are hard to imitate) are also helpful.

Just because something has a "tomobako" does not necessarily mean that it is "authentic and good.
Although the box calligraphy is an important material for authenticity, it is only supplementary.
First of all, we would like to judge authenticity by looking at the pictures inside.

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