Inlaid Shakudo and Gold Koro and Cover


Gensuke Hoikinsai ( Japanese, 1834 - 1914 )

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General Description

This magnificent square censer rests on a tall, multi-tiered pedestal richly decorated in layers with a band of waves tipped with gold foam at the bottom, a band of twelve small reserves of the animals of the zodiac, a plinth with corner brackets cast with gilt Chinese lions among rocks and waves, and gold dragons at midsection. The vessel itself features motifs from the traditional courtly bagaku dance: dancers dressed in butterfly costumes on one side and the festival drum on the other. Large handles in the form of blossoming paulownia branches are applied to the vessel, and a large phoenix surmounts the cover, which is cast in the form of rocks. The base bears a large inscription, and the piece is signed with individual artists' names in several places: Hokisai Gensuke, Harushima Nobumasa, Miyata Nobumasa, Harada Masatoshi, Serizawa Ritsumin, and Ozawa Shuraku. Some scholars remark that these metalworking artists had specialized in crafting sword fittings for the samurai class, but that once wearing swords was banned due to political changes, the metalworkers had to adapt their skills to different purposes. This censer may have been created for an exposition, such as the 1878 International Exposition in Paris or the First Domestic Exposition.

Drawn from

  • DMA Label text, John R. Young Collection, 2018.

  • Oliver Impey and Malcom Fairley, The Dragon King of the Sea: Japanese decorative art of the Meiji period from the John R. Young Collection (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1991), 18-19.