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A RUSSET-IRON ARMOR WITH AN UCHIDASHI CUIRASS
The armor laced in blue with a simple eight-plate russet-iron bowl rising slightly higher at the back of the crown in a Goshozan style, signed Nagamitsu, the top of the bowl decorated with a two-stage chrysanthemum tehen kanamono and fitted with a decorative ring at the back, mounted with a five-lame Hineno jikoro with small fukigaeshi, all lacquered black, the mabisashi riveted to the bowl with three sanko no byo and the maedate a lacquered-wood model of a long-horned demon (oni) with a shock of orange hair; the russet-iron menpo forged with strong features and applied with scalloped flanges on the cheeks, fitted with a four-lame iron yodarekake lacquered black; the cuirass a five-plate russet iron yuki no shita do with an uchidashi design of Shoki the Demon Queller (Zhongkui) hammered up from the inside in bold relief and carved on the surface in kebori, Shoki's eyes gilt and shakudo, the front plate further decorated with a zig-zag horizontal flourish and heraldic crests in shakudo, each hinge on the curiass applied with scalloped plates and all of the edges trimmed in shakudo fukurin carved with scrolling vines, fitted with seven sections of five-lame kusazuri; chusode; sleeves chain mail with hinged plates on the forearm carved with dharma wheels and flames and circular plates applied with peonies surrounding a vertical plate pierce carved with Fudo Myo-o or Bishamonten on the upper arm, the plates all liberally slashed with sahari, gauntlets carved with peony sprays; kawara haidate; chain mail suneate and fur boots; one storage box; no armor stand
Shoki is perhaps one of the most reproduced figures in Japanese art. He is considered a guardian against evil spirits as well as fire.
Popular legend has it that Shoki was a Tang Dynasty (618-907) student who committed suicide after failing his administrative examinations. Upon hearing of this Emperor Xuangzong (685-762) took pity on Shoki and posthumously granted him a doctor's degree. In return, Shoki's ghost visited the Emperor in his dreams and killed the demons that plagued the Emperor and caused him illness. This began the association between Shoki and demons. They have appeared together in countless paintings, sculptures and decorative arts, Shoki usually depicted with a flowing beard and court cap carrying a sword to battle demons. In many humorous works, the demons get the better of the Demon Queller, pulling at his beard or hiding beneath his hat.
It is rare to find an armor with a representation of Shoki on the breastplate. The guardian Fudo Myo-o is more commonly found on uchidashi armors because his fierce, resolute character was greatly admired by the Samurai. By the mid-Edo period however, the cult of Shoki had grown so large that his influence was even felt by the military elite.
For netsuke of Shoki, see lots 2027, 2028 and 2035.