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Ezo ShiShi Menuki

Excellent set of Ezo menuki (蝦夷目貫), with a shishi (獅子) motif. Executed in an alloy called rogin (鑞金) with gold gilding. Rogin is a similar alloy to shibuichi, but with a broader range of silver content.  Interestingly, the NBTHK papers call the material Kondō  (gilt bronze).  This is actually not bronze, though it does look similar. Workmanship is excellent on this set. They are executed in a carving technique called katachibori (容彫), where the subject itself becomes the outline of the menuki. This is accomplished by hammering from the back, in a process like repouss, called uchidashi (打出), and then worked with fine carving and engraving from the front to finish the motif.  The backs do not have posts. The menuki have both height and niku (). The style of the dogs themselves is an older style,  with billowy manes, and ridged backs. There is very little sukashi (透), which distinguishes them from the earliest period of Ezo-style works, as well as the more martial, animated motif, which coincides with artistic resurgence and zen beliefs in the early Muromachi period.  They come in a custom box, and an older Taisho / Showa period shifuku (仕覆) sleeve.

This is the most dynamic and expressive set of Ezo menuki I have come across. The shishi are supposed to be fearsome temple guardians, but clearly, these guys are taking a break.  They are playing, chasing and nipping at each other.  The artist has taken pains to get the proportionality and expressions correct, and you can see that their eyes actually meet when one is placed above the other. Wonderful!  These would be highly accretive to any collection of early tosogu.

 

Translation of the NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon paper description follows:

獅子図目貫 (Shishi no zu menuki)

無銘 蝦夷 (Mumei Ezo)

金銅地 容彫  (Kondō-ji katachi-bori)

Heisei 15th year (2008) June 19th

Published: Kokusai Tosogu Kai - 4th International Convention and Exhibition - 2008

Measurements: max 5.9cm x 2.5cm x 0.7cm

Early Muromachi Period (室町前期-時代), 15th century

$3,500

 

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