Margaret Watson Parker (1867-1936) was an important donor of Japanese art to the Museum in its formative years. She was an avid collector of prints by James McNeill Whistler when her good friend, Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), introduced her in 1895 to the arts of Japan. Parker visited Japan in 1907, and Freer accompanied her to Japanese collectors, dealers, and artists, from whom she personally purchased most of the decorative arts in her collection.
The series of small containers with black and red lacquer and gold, copper, and silver designs are furnishings for a bridal trousseau in the late Edo period (1615– 1868). Among the upper-class samurai of this period, marriages were negotiated between families and arranged to suit political or economic concerns. Families invested considerable resources in the education and material comfort of their daughters, and lavish bridal trousseaus, once a luxury reserved for daughters of court aristocrats or the most powerful warlords, became a social necessity for any high-ranking samurai family. A standard trousseau would include a custom-made set of over forty items, made of lacquered wood and adorned with the family crests of the bride and groom.
The delicate, thinly potted ceramic wares were made by Seifû Yohei III (1851–1914), one of the most prominent ceramic artists working in Kyoto in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Seifû was known for having mastered an extraordinary range of techniques, including celadon and white porcelain and created exquisite works, such as the white teapot and pitcher with carved dragonfly design.