an amateur attempt to colect images of japanese metalwork and ivory masterpieces.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
THE LORD OF THE BUNNY
Okimono or sculpture in the form of a quizzical hare. Of cast and cold chiseled bronze, the eyes inlaid in red bronze. Signed with a cast seal form signature on the reverse. Early Edo Period, 17th - early 18th century.
With a period cypress wood storage box, with an applied paper label on the reverse of the lid inscribed: Kodo Usagi Okimono, Keio San Nen, Naniwa Konoike Kei Yori Motomu, Sumiyama Kei or Antique Bronze Rabbit Sculpture, In 1867 Purchased from the Konoike Family of Naniwa, (Osaka), (and signed) Sumiyama Family (Master).
The Konoike family was a major Osaka merchant house during the Edo Period, founded by Yamanaka Shinroku (1570 – 1650). Originally the family fortune derived from the discovery in about 1600 of how to brew refined, clear sake (as opposed to the unfiltered milky type). They became major shippers of the rice wine to Edo (now Tokyo), eventually becoming major agents for sales of Daimyo tax rice. By 1650 they were wealthy and expanding into the banking business of loaning money to feudal lords. By 1700 the Konoike were among the wealthiest merchants in Osaka, and all of Japan.
Only feudal lords and extremely wealthy merchants possessed okimono in the 17th century. Objects such as this were extremely rare until the end of the Edo Period in the mid 19th century. Early examples such as this hare reveal a quirky, fierce quality that disappears by the mid 18th century. Later pieces become increasingly appealing, with sweeter less wild expressions.
In 1868, following the downfall of Japan's military government, the Emperor Meiji was restored to power. Japanese artisans, particularly metalworkers, lost their traditional samurai patrons and were obliged to find new markets for their skills. Emerging from its feudal past, Japan developed as a modern industrialised and economic power. It employed western technicians and advisors to work with Japanese artisans in developing new and improved methods of production. At the great international exhibitions that were then in vogue, Japan displayed its traditional arts and crafts, as well as other forms of manufacture. The objects illustrated here illustrate many of Japan's traditional metalworking techniques, such as bronze-casting, patination, decorative inlay and chasing (fine working of the finished surface). These had previously been used to great effect on arms and armour for the samurai, but here they have been transferred to purely decorative objects. Like other forms of art produced during the Meiji period (1868-1912), these pieces illustrate a fascinating fusion of traditional Japanese techniques and themes with western forms and ideas.