Meiji period (1868-1912)
Ivory, Lacquer, Wood
Height : 53 cm (20,8 in.) ; Width : 36 cm (14,1 in.) ; Depth : 23,5 cm (9,2 in.)
Rare set of three ivory vases carved in imitation of bamboo, with a Shibayama decor of lacquer and gilding. Each represents, amid cherry blossoms and bamboo, a man in traditional clothes returning from the rice fields, the middle one riding a bull.
They rest on a lacquered wood base with golden geometrical and floral motifs, supported by three stylized elephant heads with an inverted trunk, all on a bilobed tray decorated with a lake landscape.
These vases illustrate Riding the bull home, one of the ten steps of the Ten Bulls, series of short poems and accompanying drawings used in the Zen tradition to describe the stages of a practitioner’s progress toward enlightenment and his or her return to society to enact wisdom and compassion
The art technique used, Shibayama, was created at the end of the Edo period, by the craftsman Ōnoki Senzō, who named this technique after his hometown Shibayama, in the current prefecture of shiba. Used first in the 18th century to decorate objects for personal use, she contributed during the 19th century to add value to decorative objects, who exported to Europe thanks to Japan’s opening to the outside world under the Meiji era.
This technique consists of embedding in ivory, exotic woods or lacquer precious materials such as mother-of-pearl, tortoiseshell, jade, gold or silver lacquer.