A small Japanese lacquer box with on the lid the English Royal coat-of- arms, R G I, and J
A small Japanese lacquer box with on the lid the English Royal coat-of- arms, R G I, and J

A small Japanese lacquer box with on the lid the English Royal coat-of-arms, R G I, and June 22. 1911, containing the coronation medallion with on one side, under a crown the initials G V R, George V Rex, and the coronation date 22 June 1911, and on the other side the portraits of King George V and Queen Mary


Kyoto, late 19th century

H. 2.5 x W. 6.7 x D. 4.6 cm

The small box is coated in black lacquer, the sides decorated in gold hiramaki-e with a traditional Japanese motif of wisteria vines and the top decorated with the English coat of arms. The Japanese maker of this small lacquered box clearly struggled with the lion and unicorn figures of the English Royal coat-of-arms and made a mistake: it was not George I (R G I), but George V who was coronated King of the United Kingdom and the British Empire in Westminster Abbey on June 22, 1911.

The Japanese Emperor was represented at the ceremony by Prince and Princess Higashifushimi. In commemoration of the event, a coronation medal was distributed to over 16.000 dignitaries across the globe. In Britain’s colonies and the commonwealth, local authorities were in charge of the distribution. It is likely that the distribution of the medals in Japan was handled by the recently founded Japan-British Society, and that the Society commissioned a lacquer craftsman to make small boxes to fit the medals in. The name of the lacquer worker is at the underside of the box, Miyamoto.