shippoumon 七宝文
KEY WORD : art history / paintings
A geometric design pattern which may be described alternatively as four spindles arranged in a circle with ends touching, or as overlapping circles enclosing diamonds or stars. The original meaning of *shippou 七宝 is seven treasures, which included gold, silver, lapis lazuli, agate, pearl, coral and crystal, and it is supposed that from this the multi-colored art of cloisonne got its name, shippouyaki 七宝焼. Some scholars believe that the design was given its name because it was often used in cloisonne work; others say that there is no proof to support such a conclusion. Its earliest appearance in Japan is on fabrics preserved in *Shousouin 正倉院 repository in Nara (756); it is found later in cut gold *kirikane 切金 designs in Heian period Buddhist pictures. By the Edo period it was being used on porcelain, metalwork, woodwork and lacquer, often in combination with other designs. It was also popular on women's kimono 着物, as can be seen in surviving woodblock prints *ukiyo-e 浮世絵.


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