Japanese Komai Mixed Metal Damascene Miniature Folding Screen | Yoshino Family Crest

This is an exceptional and very unique Japanese Iron and mix metal (bronze, gold and silver) inlayKomai screen. In 1855, the Komai family originated a form of damascene used to ornament swords and other types of artifacts, for which the family gained the highest respect for their fine decorative metalwork during the Meiji period. The Komai family held the office of sword-mounters to the Japanese court for over seven years. After changes brought about by the Meiji restoration in 1868, the Samurai were no longer allowed to openly wear swords, so the Komai family sought another form of livelihood, and began redirecting their damascene craft to creating objects for use by the upper class. Typically one sees cigarette cases, since smoking was quite popular, brooches, and bracelets of linked panels. Atypically, one finds something like this miniature table, (or scholar’s), screen that is at the same level of quality as Japanese sword mounts and fittings made by the Komai family.

Japanese metalwork, technically and artistically, has been unrivaled by that of other cultures, with no country or culture reaching the level of work seen by the Japanese sword-smith. Fabricated utilizing a very difficult process of metalwork, Komai ware typically had a base of iron or steel. The designs were then etched into the base metal by a fine needle-pointed tool, and were then inlaid with precious metals such as silver and gold, and were highly coveted from the Meiji period on.

This elegant, miniature, and heavy matte-black table screen has four uniquely designed iron panels framed in solid brass, with four different, but related landscape motifs: bamboo, with birds flying overhead, Yoshino Village scene, blooming cherry tree with birds, and a traditional Japanese Minka, (estate home) on a lake, with a backdrop of Mt. Fuji. Each solid panel has visual elements that are inlaid with gold and silver on an iron base.

Since there is no signature of the maker on the piece, we find on the backside of the screen the family crest (mon), inlaid in silver on each panel (this tells us that it was specifically made on the request, we assume, by the Yoshino family, and since the craftsman was known by the family, there was no need for a signature). We understand through the history of this Cherry Blossom Crest, (sakura mon), that the Yoshino family were the first to adopt this motif, because in Japanese tradition, this form immediately calls to mind the springtime slopes of Mt. Yoshino, in Nara Prefecture. This piece was not made for export. The bottom of each front panel is covered with a stylized design of cherry blossoms in silver and gold, giving a wonderful decorative and textural accent to each individual panel. These are the original hinges that allow the four panels to fold appropriately.

This Miniature Folding Table Screen is in original condition, with no damage, or repairs. The piece weights two (2) pounds, and measures 6-0”h x 11-1/4”w (each panel measures approximately 2-5/8”w). We rarely see screens of this quality on the market. This is a true museum quality piece for the Komai collector.

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