Antique Japanese Carved Hardwood Shi-Shi / Jishi, (Lion), Carved Panel | Exceptional 20th Century Temple Guardian | Early Taisho (1912-1921)
Provenance…Offered is an architectural panel originally set into an interior of a family temple which was dismantled when the family moved to the United States in 1920s, and brought their religious treasure into the country. The parent and children owned and operated an Antique shop in Carmel, California which continued until the late 1970s.
VERY RARE…It has extremely deep carving, which has been left untouched, and which allows it to develop an exceptional patina. Beautiful, fine work and detailing, with natural coloration throughout the piece, particularly seen in the golden color of the lion’s mane. Also seen are the remnants of a gold eye, tooth, and red tongue color, which were used to differentiate each feature. The original hand-carving has not been disturbed in order to preserve it’s character and value; hence it is framed. The subject features a Shi-Shi, (in this case the Open Mouth Lion), considered a guardian with magical powers to repel evil. Surrounded by a large peony in a natural environment filled with foliage…different levels of depth, fully carved and detailed are realized. The back has a shallow overall cloud motif, cut and fitted to complement the front image. Condition: Excellent working of one piece of wood, with all elements and details intact, with no cracking, chipping or deterioration of the wood. The piece has been protected with a black/gold frame, (contemporary-1960s), for display, and has attached clips so as to not change the original carving in anyway. The carving can be released should the frame not be wanted. The piece is stamped JAPAN on the back, (see Note/Explanation below). Would round out a personal collection, or to display a beautiful representation of Japanese religious culture. Dimensions: 15/1/4”h x 18-3/4”w x 3-1/2”d. Weight: 13-1/2 lbs.
Everything in nature has special significance in both religions. Japanese guardian or protector lions are traditionally known in Japan as Shi-Shi, and tied to Buddhism and Shintoism, and referred to as Foo Dogs in China and the West. Wooden Shi-Shi carvings are commonly used as architectural elements and placed in a special location in both Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples to ward off evil spirits. According to the Kyoto National Museum, the open-mouth animal is just a lion. Only the close-mouth animal is a lion-dog. The museum also notes that early artwork of the ShiShi depicted one with a horn on its head, (as found at Toji Temple 東寺 in Kyoto), but by the Kamakura Era, the horned beast of earlier times had been replaced by the hornless version.
Note: Most pieces marked with the name of a country were made after 1891, when the McKinley Tariff Act was passed. Pieces from Japan were marked “Nippon,” the transliteration of the Japanese word for Japan. After 1915 the words “Made in…” were usually added. Beginning in 1921, U.S. Customs required country names to be in English, and the word “Japan” was used instead of “Nippon.” Items marked “Made in Occupied Japan” were made between February 1947 and April 1952. After that, just the word “Japan” was used again. According to experts on 19th- and 20th-century Japanese artifacts, the color does not help date a mark. Red, green and black were used most years. There is no explanation for when other colors were used.
Excellent Condition- In unused, or like-unused condition. No visual or structural or surface wear or damage shown. Pristine. As good as the day it was made.
Great Condition- Appears in slightly used condition but looks "Like New". Some minor wear, but retains the original craft/workmanship. May show minor wear, that does not affect the main design, or associated motif. No cracks, dents, chips or missing elements.
Good Condition- Minor wear which can be restored or repaired; may have surface flaws, like staining or soiling, confined to a small area. The flaw(s) are counterbalanced by another feature, like brilliant color or innovative design. Some fading or the piece may have been altered in some fashion.
Fair Condition- Main aesthetic/design showing damage. Excessive noticeable wear or damage. Worth buying if can be restored/repaired because of its aesthetic or design appeal or rarity. Note: wear/damage consistent with age/use can often enhance the 'Antique' qualities of a piece, giving it a desirable second chance in one's collection