Antique Japanese Bronze and Mixed Metal Dragon Vase | Chasing the Luminous Flaming Pearl | Meiji Period (1868-1912)

Bronze Eight Sided Baluster Vase decorated ‘iroe takazogan’, ‘hirazogan’, and ‘shishiaibori, illustrating a dragon in flight chasing the “sacred pearl”. There are traces of the importance of the “sacred pearl” of wisdom, or yang energy, in early Taoism, but it is best preserved in Buddhism as the jewel in the lotus: a jewel that grants all wishes. This Dragon is depicted in seeming pursuit, reaching out to clutch at the elusive object; swirling through mists and shadows, mouth open and eyes bulging in anticipation of achieving the prize afforded by clutching the pearl, often identified as ball lightning, the sun, the moon or rolling thunder. Japanese dragons are typically water deities associated with rainfall and bodies of water, and are typically depicted as large, wingless, serpentine creatures with clawed feet. There is additional detailing representing rolling thunder on the rim of the foot.

Signed by metal artist, OSHIMA, JOUN (1858-1940), with impressed seal of the foundry on bottom of vase. Dimension: 9-3/4h x 4-0”dia at the flat shoulder with evented neck. Condition: Excellent, unrestored original condition. Item not made for export.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION —
Metalworking techniques had, of course, been brought to Japan from China and Korea even before the arrival of Buddhism. The first technology to reach Japan was that of casting bronze. Japan was fortunate enough to be blessed with rich natural resources of metals. As a result, domestic demand could be met entirely with domestic metal right up until the nineteenth century.

Metalworking involves an extraordinarily wide variety of techniques, among them casting, forging, chasing, damascene work, and cloisonné, and most of them are still being practiced in Kyoto today. Kyoto metal Inlay, (zogan), is the generic term for the technique of inserting pieces of one or more materials into a base material, creating patterns of silver and gold, representing a multitude of motifs treasured during the period of production.

After Japan opened its doors to the west at the end of the Meiji Restoration, (1920), and with the introduction of the Dutch East Indian Trading Company, foreigners were greatly attracted by the intricate, sumptuous beauty of Japanese metal inlay. Whereas in the past, the craftsmen had applied their techniques to sword guards, they now applied them to accessories and personal effects. The most favored designs featured landscapes, fauna, images of bamboo, tigers, Mount Fuji, Cherry Blossoms, mythological subjects such as dragons, and depiction of beautiful women. It was from this period that metal inlay produced in Kyoto became known as Kyo-zogan.

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