Altar Table

  • Muromachi period
  • 15-16c
  • Black lacquered wood, gilt bronze
  • H-32.2 D-36 W-73.1
    Transmitted by Anyoji temple
Catalogue Entry

Muromachi period, 15th to 16th centuries
Black lacquered wood
Height, 31.9cm; width, 73.1cm; depth, 37.0cm

Each of the long sides of this altar table have been divided by a central leg into 2 panels of lotus blossom-shaped openwork (joined hands-shape), and each of the short sides of the table is fitted with a single panel of this openwork design. The hinoki (Japanese cypress) rectangular structure is coated overall with black lacquer. This form of table can be seen in examples used in the lecture hall of Horyuji said to date from the Kamakura period, and tall examples of this table form are used as altar tables placed directly in front of the central image of a temple. This frontal table holds Buddhist implements, with an incense brazier in the center and flanked on either side by such implements as rokki bowls, flower vases, candle stands, etc. Generally, however, these tables are used as side tables placed to the side of the seat of the presiding priest, in the same manner as the gongs used in the rituals. These side tables hold various incense implements, such as a handled incense burner, incense container, etc., or ichimengu, mitsugusoku, or other types of equipment. The present table is relatively short in stature, and thus was very likely used as this form of side table.

The manner in which the top surface of the table has been thinly formed and the lower framework created, the delicate forms of the legs, and the carving methods all point to the refined aesthetics of a particularly accomplished craftsman.

The metal fittings are made in a paired hasso-form and are made of gilt bronze with rough patterns. Part of the woodwork has been deco-rated with red lacquer, and the boundary lines set out against the overall black lacquer coating are conventional for this type of table.

While the lacquered surfaces of the carved side panels and the legs differ from those of the top surface board, and connected traces used for repair are also apparent, the overall original form of this superb table has been well maintained.

The bottom of the top board has been inscribed "Anyoji Joju nari" (commonly-used object in Anyoji) in red lacquer, but it is not clear which temple by the name of Anyoji is indicated. SK