|Harui Kōmin 春井恒眠 (1869 - circa 1936)|
Taisho era (1912 - 1926)
Wood with decoration in gold kinji, togidashi maki-e, hiramaki-e, takamaki-e, kinpun, and okibirame, and red lacquer on a black-lacquer ground; the interior with gold okibirame; the base with gold hirame
Signature: Kōmin 恒眠
Seal: Kōmin 恒眠
Fitted wooden triple tomobako box. Innermost box inscribed and signed outside: Tatsutagawa natsume Kōmin 竜田川棗 恒眠 (Tea caddy with the Tatsuta River by Kōmin); seal: Kōmin 恒眠; middle lacquered-wood box signed inside: Kōmin saku Tatsuta maki-e hiranatsume 恒眠作竜田蒔絵平棗 (Squat tea caddy with the Tatsuta [River] in maki-e, by Kōmin); outermost box of tamenuri lacquer
This small lidded caddy for powdered green tea is sumptuously decorated with a design of maple leaves floating down onto a stream. Using a combination of red lacquer with varying tints of fine gold powder as well as larger flakes of the precious metal, the artist skillfully captures the changing appearance of the leaves as they gradually take on a brilliant red hue. In contrast to the square okibi-rame - individually placed flakes of gold foil - that form the background to the design on the exterior, the interior of the caddy is densely covered with more informally shaped okibirame that create a varied, eye-catching pattern.
As the inscription on the box informs us, this combination of motifs refers to fall foliage on the Tatsuta River, a sight celebrated since early times that is featured in many well known waka poems, including this anonymous tenth-century example from Kokinshū (A Collection of Old and New Poems):
Tatsutagawa / momiji midarete / nagarumeri / wata-raba nishiki / naka ya taenamu
Tatsuta River / a riot of crimson leaves / float on your surface / were I to cross over now / I would split your rich brocade.(1)
(1) Kokinshū 283.
|Location of Origin: Japan|
|Medium/Materials: wood, red lacquer, black lacquer, gold|
|Dimensions: 2 1/4 x 3 1/2 in (5.6 x 9 cm)|
|Primary Classification: Asian Art : Japanese / Korean|
|The box is signed by Harui Kōmin, who was born in 1869. Despite ill health, Kōmin, the son of Harui Kiyosaburō (who died when Kōmin was sixteen), apprenticed under his father’s pupil, the leading maki-e master Nakakawa Shibasen (1846 –1897, see also no. 27), and also studied painting under Yamamoto Kōichi at the Naniwa Gagakkō, an Osaka art academy founded in 1884. In 1888 he moved to Kyoto and worked for the Ikeda Gōmeigaisha, a trading company operated by Ikeda Seisuke, where he was in charge of some forty craftsmen; Kōmin reportedly had the opportunity to improve his technique by studying Ikeda’s large stock of classic maki-e wares. According to an account written in April 1922, Ikeda sold most of Kōmin’s production to foreign museums and individuals.(2) The Ikeda company was disbanded in 1911, and in 1914 Kōmin moved to Suma, near Kobe, for health reasons. The simplified, stylized manner of this piece and the fact that it bears a signature suggest that it was likely made at Suma during this late phase of Kōmin’s career. The Baur Collection in Geneva possesses a number of Kōmin’s works, including another hiranatsume with exterior decoration of a single maple leaf.(3) (2) For this document, see Goke 1995, no. 231. Other biographical information concerning Kōmin and his associates is drawn from Takao 2005, pp. 90, 111, 114. (3) Schneeberger 1984, no. F 30. The introductory essay to this catalogue mentions “Harui Komin” with no macron over the “o” (p. 7), making it difficult to distinguish between the present artist and Nakayama Komin (whose work is also featured in the Baur Collection) in the rest of the text, where the family name is not given; but F 30 looks very likely to be Harui Kōmin’s work.|
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