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Provenance: an English private collection, bequeathed to the present owner by her father who acquired the vase just after World War II.
One of the finest metalworkers of the later nineteenth century, Yamada Motonobu came from a family of artists who had originally served the branch of the Tokugawa family that ruled the Mito domain, some 70 miles to the northeast of Edo/Tokyo. He started his training in metal carving at age 13 in 1864 and is recorded as working for the Imperial Household in 1877 (see Sekai o odorokaseta Bakumatsu, Meiji no kinko (Late-Edo-Period and Meiji-Era Metalwork That Astonished the World), Rokusho, 62, Tokyo, Maria Shobo, March 2007, p.89). After the prohibition of the wearing of swords in 1876, companies such as Ozeki encouraged Motonobu and other sword-fitting makers to apply their dazzling skills to the manufacture of ornaments and accessories directed mainly at the overseas market.