Object Image

Clam Shells Decorated with Scenes of a Tale

A set of painted shells like these made a suitable wedding gift because the two halves of a clamshell match only with each other. Each pair is painted with identical images of well-known tales. In a traditional game created by aristocrats during the Heian period (794-1185 c.E.), the pairs were separated into two groups. The shells from one group were placed on the floor with the painted side down, and the goal was to pair each shell with its mate in the other group. Paired shells like this remain a symbol of good marriage today.

Bequest of Robert S. Hardie in memory of his wife, Mayte B. Hardie ...
Read more
Early 19th century
Ink and colors on gold paper on clam shell
0.9 x 3.8 x 2.0 in
F93-10/2 K
Image and text: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 2023

Where you'll find this

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Permanent collection