An important mixed metal box and cover By Unno Moritoshi (1934-1896)
Lot 3162
An important mixed metal box and cover By Unno Moritoshi (1834-1896)
Sold for US$ 170,000 inc. premium
Auction Details
An important mixed metal box and cover By Unno Moritoshi (1934-1896) An important mixed metal box and cover By Unno Moritoshi (1934-1896) An important mixed metal box and cover By Unno Moritoshi (1934-1896) An important mixed metal box and cover By Unno Moritoshi (1934-1896) An important mixed metal box and cover By Unno Moritoshi (1934-1896) An important mixed metal box and cover By Unno Moritoshi (1934-1896) An important mixed metal box and cover By Unno Moritoshi (1934-1896) An important mixed metal box and cover By Unno Moritoshi (1934-1896)
Lot Details
An important mixed metal box and cover
By Unno Moritoshi (1834-1896)
The rounded rectangular box with a slightly domed cover and decorated in a tour de force of metalwork techniques; the cover designed with a scene of the young priest Yuten kneeling in prayer as Fudo Myo-o appears before him in flames about to thrust his sword into the acolyte's throat, all rendered in high-relief iroe takazogan, takabori, shishiaibori and kebori against a polished or ishime silver ground, the border slightly raised and decorated in scrolling vines in two shades of gold and punctuated by lotus blossoms carved in relief and inlaid in silver and gold, the sides of the box worked in a continuous design of "textile swaths" decorated with floral roundels, confronted dragons, plovers on waves, lozenges, rabbits in waves, autumn grasses, Chinese boys in scholarly pursuits, waves, peonies, floating fans and maple leaves, all in flush-inlaid gold, silver, copper, shakudo and shibuichi with additional sections designed with dragons, phoenix and shishi in silver carved in sunken-relief embellished with gold and copper, and peacock feathers in iroe takazogan, the interior of the lower section of the box decorated with Buddhist dharma wheels and plumb-blossom crests in gold, copper and shakudo hirazogan, the underside of the lid designed with a gold-inlaid Buddhist vajra and an open sutra hand scroll inscribed with Moritoshi's interpretation of the story of Yuten, the leader paper decorated in gold hirazogan against a shakudo migakiji ground, the gold cartouche on the scroll reading Shaku Yuten (Priest Yuten)
and dated Kinoesaru inuzuki (1884.10) and signed Moritoshi jishiki (Interpreted by Moritoshi)
4 x 4 1/16 x 1 3/16in (10.2 x 10.3 x 3cm)

Footnotes

  • The story of Yuten Shaku tells of a young acolyte who was hopeless at his studies. Though he spent countless hours studying the sutras, he was unable to master them. Yuten's teachers eventually gave up on him and he began to lose heart. In despair, Yuten made a vow before an image of Fudo Myo-o that he would become a better student and that very night he dreamt that he swallowed a sword. When he woke up the following morning he was coughing up blood and with it his stupidity. From that day forward he was transformed into a bright and gifted student, regarded throughout the land as the wisest man alive. This box is Moritoshi's interpretation of Yuten's story.

    The Ozeki family were among the most active commissioners of high-quality decorative arts in the Meiji period. They exhibited a number of these commissioned pieces at expositions where they often won awards for their discerning eye for qualitye. The family would also sell the pieces they commissioned through their company, the Musashiya, stamped with the Ozeki Company seal.

    Unno Moritoshi was one of the artists commissioned by the Ozeki family. Although this box does not include the Ozeki Company seal, the superior craftsmanship and high-quality material used suggests the backing of a wealthy patron.

    For other examples of works by Moritoshi commissioned by the Ozeki Company, see The Nasser D. Khalili Collection vol. II, Metalwork Part I (London: The Kibo Foundation, 1995), nos. 48 & 50.
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