Tribal and Textile Arts Show SF, CA 2014

Kutani Monks, Kanzan & Jittoku, Meiji Period


Underglaze-blue Kutani  sculpture of the Zen Monks, Kanzan and Jittoku who lived on Mount Tiantai in Tang dynasty China (618-906), where they were known as Han Shan and Shi De.  Kanzan was a hermit-poet who befriended Jittoku, a kitchen-hand in the nearby Guoqing temple by reading him his poems for which Jittoku would, in return,  bring leftover food from the temple.   In this charming sculpture, both of the monks are wearing Chinese style clothes and Jittoku is standing with his left arm wrapped behind Kanzan and holding a broom while Kanzan holds an opened  scroll from which he is probably reading his poems.

11 inches tall

27.9 cm tall


Kutani Maneki Neko (Beckoning Cat), Meiji Period

This exceptional Kutani Maneki Neko (Beckoning Cat) evokes imagery of the legend’s beginning.

In a very poor 16th Century temple lived a priest with his cat.  Despite little to eat, the priest always shared what he could with the cat.

One night during a terrible storm, a wealthy traveler took shelter under a large tree in front of the temple.  As he waited for the storm to end, he noticed in the doorway to the temple, a cat waving or beckoning for him to enter.  The traveler picked up his belongings and entered the temple as a bolt of lightning struck and split the tree he had just vacated.  His good fortune was attributed to the beckoning cat.

The traveler and the priest became good friends and the temple flourished from the traveler’s generosity.  To this day, Maneki Neko beckon travelers and guests into many homes and businesses in Japan.  This example dates to the Meji period. 

11 inches

27.9 cm




Bugaku Mask, Heijitori, c. 1760

Japanese Red Lacquer Heijitori Bugaku Mask, c. 1760

This fabulous lacquer over wood mask of Heijitori from the Prince Tokugawa Collection is believed to be an exact copy of a mask in the Hachimangu Tsurugaoka Shrine in Kamakura.  This mask is one of 23 Bugaku masks acquired from the Prince Tokugawa Collection and is in spectacular condition

The Edo branch of the Tokugawa clan, which was closely aligned with the Tsurugaoku Hachimangu Shrine, apparently commissioned Deme Yusui (d. 1766) and other master mask carvers to copy a full set of the Bugaku masks of the Shrine about 1760.  The Shrine unfortunately burned in the late 18th century and only a handful of the original masks were saved.   Fortunately, original drawings of the Shrine’s masks were not lost.  The recorded history of Deme Yasui’s project, however, was lost and while it was known copies had been made of their masks, it was not known a large collection of their masks existed.

In May 2010, several masks from the Prince Tokugawa Collection were taken to the Hachimangu Tsurugaoka Shrine for research and authentication.  By matching the masks against the original drawings of the original masks, it was determined all of the Bugaku masks from the Prince Tokugawa Collection were, in fact, copies of the original masks and all were probably produced between 1760 and 1765.

This mask comes with the original marked storage box

10.5 x 8.75 inches

26.7 x 22.2 cm


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