Forms for Fragrance –Treasures from the Takasago Collection

香りの器 高砂コレクション 展

To those who wish to visit the Forms for Fragrance –Treasures from the Takasago Collection

Admission to the Forms for Fragrance: Treasures from the Takasago Collection exhibition does not require a prior reservation.However, during busy times, visitors may be asked to wait or be assigned a specific time block for admission.Once all time blocks for the day have been filled, we will be unable to accept any more visitors.The photography corner will be closed from Saturday, March 13th to Sunday, March 21st to avoid congestion at the museum.

General Information

January. 9 - March. 21, 2021
10 a.m. - 6 p.m. (Admittance until 5:30 p.m.)
* Open until 8 p.m. (admittance until 7:30 p.m.) on Feb. 5 and Mar. 5
You can enter the " Forms for Fragrance: Treasures from the Takasago Collection" exhibition without reservation. We will limit the number of visitors in the exhibition room as measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infection. After reaching the limit, we will issue a numbered ticket and specify the admission time. In addition, we will be closed at night on Feb.5(Friday) and Mar.5(Friday).
Adults: ¥1000
Visitors aged 65 or over carrying proof of age: ¥900
Students (College): ¥700
Students (High / Middle school): ¥500
Admission is free for children in primary school and younger.
Admission is free for disability passbook holders and up to one accompanying adult.
Panasonic Shiodome Museum of Art, The Tokyo Shimbun
Embassy of France in Tokyo / Institut français du Japon, Minato City Board of Education
Special Cooperation
Takasago International Corporation
Planning cooperation
Okamura Printing Industries Co., Ltd., Kyuryudo Art-Publishing Co., Ltd., and Artone Co., Ltd.

Exhibition overview

The works in this exhibition range from fragrant oil containers from the ancient Orient to gorgeous porcelain and glass perfume bottles that added luster to modern European lifestyles. They also include utterly luxurious lacquer, porcelain, and metal incense burners and other implements associated with the traditional Japanese art of appreciating incense. The exhibition presents about 240 items carefully selected from the Takasago Collection, the superb collection of works of art related to perfumes and fragrances built by Takasago International Corporation over the span of many years. The history of fragrances and their containers is, it is said, as old as humanity. Experiencing this collection provides the ideal opportunity to savor the profound depths of the history and culture associated with fragrances old and new, from East and West. At the exhibition in Tokyo, additional works on loan from art museums in Japan will also be on display. These include portraits of aristocratic women that evoke perfumes, together with works that epitomize Art Deco. This exhibition offers an exceptional opportunity for visitors to experience directly the close association of containers for fragrances with painting and design from the same period.

Exhibition highlights

1. From ancient times to the 20th century, fragrance containers from around the world

Works on display include a 10th century BCE fragrant oil container from Cyprus and a 6th century BCE perfume bottle from Greece, porcelain perfume bottles, potpourri pots from the famous Meissen and Sèvres kilns in Europe, and Art Nouveau and Art Deco forms created by such renowned designers as Gallé, the Daum brothers, and Lalique. Other items on display include toiletries sets and perfume makers’ gorgeous posters.

2. A rich array of works associated with the traditional Japanese fragrance culture, especially utensils used in Japan's way of Fragrance

Works on display include traditional utensils used in Japan's way of Fragrance, aromatic woods, and historic Kōdō documents. These range from Satsuma ware, elaborate lacquerware with the Shibayama-style decoration, and cloisonné incense burners in the Meiji period to works by modern and contemporary craft artists inspired by their study of classic examples.

3. Select paintings and furniture from Japanese art museum collections!

In addition to works from the Takasago collection, in Tokyo the exhibition also includes works borrowed from art museums in Japan: portraits of aristocratic women with perfume bottles, a famous painting by Marie Laurencin, and stylish Art Deco chairs and lamps. Starting in the nineteenth century perfume bottles became indispensable accoutrements to ordinary as well as aristocratic lifestyles. These additional works allow us to observe how they reflect the aesthetics of their times.

I. Fragrances in Foreign Countries

The history of fragrances can be traced back to about 3000 BC, in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. Aromatic oils, frankincense, myrrh, and other fragrant materials were used not only in religious rituals but also, it is thought, as part of the lives of royalty and the aristocracy.

In the ancient Greco-Roman period, fragrant materials and fragrant oils became more widespread. Ceramic and glass fragrant oil jars and jars for balsam were made in Greece and Rome, respectively. Technical innovations in Roman glass increased the variety of designs for jars and other containers.

From the Middle Ages to the Early Modern period, due to the development of distillation techniques, many perfumes were produced and used, stored in glass containers.

In Western Europe, pastilles, kept in containers called pomanders (“fragrant ball” in French; derived from pomme, apple, and d’ambre, ambergris), were the main form in which fragrances were presented.

In the seventeenth century, it become possible to extract essential oils, using alcohol. And the culture of perfume swiftly blossomed. In the eighteenth century, while royalty and aristocrats played the leading role, the custom of enjoying perfumes spread among the common people as well. Elegant ceramic perfume bottles by Meissen, Wedgwood, and other ceramics companies earned popularity.

From the nineteenth century on, with the development of civil society, perfume culture became even more sophisticated. A dazzlingly beautiful world developed of perfume bottles created with increasingly sophisticated glassmaking skills, by Bohemian glass, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco artists.

In the twentieth century, perfume makers commissioned Lalique and other glass artists to create designs that suited the perfumes they were going to launch on the market. The perfume bottle entered the age of mass production.

The special exhibits in this section include paintings, furniture, and other furnishings from the collections of art museums in Japan. These works, which date from the latter half of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century, are displayed near the perfume bottles and toiletries sets with which the motifs depicted in the paintings and the design themes have a deep relationship.

Red -figure Lekythos fragrant oil jar with handle
6th century BCE /Attica,Greece
Takasago Collection
Meissen “Puppy” perfume bottle in overglaze enamels
19th century 
Takasago Collection
René Lalique Bouchon Eucalyptus
Takasago Collection

II. Fragrance in Japan

The history of fragrance in Japan is thought to have begun after the transmission of Buddhism in the sixth century. Compared with the ancient Orient, in which the history of fragrance goes back over two millennia, two centuries before the common era, and with European countries who received its influence, interest in fragrance in Japan emerged somewhat later. But its culture of fragrance, once launched, blossomed in the blink of an eye and went on to develop in a manner quite unlike that in other countries.

In Japan, the fragrances produced by burning incense were initially used in religious rituals and at the imperial court. In time, they became part of daily life, mainly among the upper classes. In the Heian period (794 to 1185), competitions to produce better incense fragrances (takimonoawase) and other elegant games developed. In the Muromachi period (1338–1573), fragrance was elevated to an art as Kōdō, the Way of Fragrance or Way of Incense. Those developments were accompanied by a profusion of implements created to burn incense and “listen” to its fragrance. Many superb works were produced--particularly lacquerware, as part of the accoutrements of daimyo and other distinguished persons in the Edo period (1600-1868), when the Japanese culture of fragrance reached its peak.

The Meiji period (1868-1912) was an age in which new ideas took hold. Notably, the production of craft objects in Japan shifted from the system utilizing division of labor among craftsmen that had been in operation before the early modern period to the implementation of a new concept: individual artists working on their own to create works of art. In the field of incense utensils, the production of lavish, gemlike objects as in the early modern period fell off dramatically. Incense burners and incense cases, however, came to be regarded not only as practical utensils but as objects worthy of appreciation for their artistic quality. Indeed, they became a favorite target for the application of the creativity of the many individual artists who emerged from the Taisho period (1912-1926) on. Those artists created a multitude of magnificent works.

Incense pillow with crane motif in maki-e
Edo period, 18th century
Takasago Collection
Jisshu-kō box with Hamamatsu-Shioya design in maki-e
Meiji period, 20th century
Takasago Collection
Cloisonné incense burner with bird and flower design
Meiji period
Takasago Collection