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Okimono - Ivory, Elephant & Musicians, Japan, Late Edo Period, Aug 1865 Object Reg. No: HT 22580

Ivory carving (okimono) of an elephant with musicians (one of a pair). Manufactured in Japan in August 1865 by Koyosai Yushin, whose signature appears on the underside. The inscription underneath indicates that Yushin produced this okimono on request, and it is probably a pair with the related item.

An okimono is an small, carved Japanese decorative object created specifically for display, and typically depicts domestic scenes of farmers, fishermen, and children and occasionally, studies of birds, animals and flowers.

Similar to, but larger than netsuke - which served a practical function as a fastener or toggle - okimono were often presented in the tokonoma, an interior alcove or recesss in Japanese homes for the display of pictures or decorative art objects. During the Meiji period (1868-1912), many okimono were made for export to the west.

The musicians have a Chinese appearance, not uncommon in Japanese okimono carvings at this time in which representations of 'Karako', or Chinese, were a popular subject. In the Edo period (1603-1867) in Japan, it was considered a good omen to view foreign animals and their performances, thus it is not unlikely that this okimono was produced as a good luck charm.
One elephant has a lotus flower on its back. It is standing on a base, with three musicians on its left side, two musicians on its right side, and a flautist under its left ear. The other elephant is slightly smaller and has two musicians on its left side, and three musicians on its right.
Acquisition Information:
Cultural Gifts Donation from Dr Will Twycross, 2009
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Discipline: History
Dimensions: 81 mm (Height), 77 mm (Width)

More information

Tagged with: exhibitions melbourne international 1880-1881, royal exhibition building, japanese art, decorative arts, ivory, japanese culture, royal exhibition building history of events 1879-1899
Themes this item is part of: Public Life & Institutions Collection, John Twycross Melbourne International Exhibitions Collection
Secondary Classification: International Exhibitions
Tertiary Classification: exhibition heritage
Inscriptions: Both objects signed and dated on underside with columns of kanji.

Keiou gan-nen/ Ushi
Sei-getsu/ Ou-jyu
Ko-yo-sai Yushin

English translation:
1865 / the year of the Ox
August / Requested
Ko-yo-sai Yushin
Artist: Koyosai Yushin, Japan, Aug 1865

late Edo Period; Edo Period, 1603-1867; Meiji Period, 1868-1912
Place & Date Made: Japan, Aug 1865
Place & Date Exhibited: Royal Exhibition Building (REB), Carlton, Victoria, Australia, 1880-1881
Collector: Mr John Twycross, Elsternwick, Victoria, Australia, 1881

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