Japanese Antique Bronze Brush Washer

Vintage Japanese Bronze Dragon Brush Washer


Age:Late Showa period (1940-1950)

Descriptive qualities& condition:

Dimensions: 4-1/2”h, 6-3/4” dia.

This is an exceptional antique Japanese bronze brush washer, (container similar to this was used as Suiban/Bulb container for growing Narcissus), in the form of a low bowl, with a slender fierce cast dragon, which wraps around the rim. There are three pronounced feet on the bottom of the bowl with claws on each, and it is finished in a chocolate brown patina. Japanese dragons, (Nihon no ryu) are popular legendary creatures discussed throughout Japanese mythology and folklore. The piece is unsigned and remains in excellent original condition.

Vintage Condition: Excellent and quite heavy, with the inlay all-intact. “As is” with some scattered light wear that does not affect the design, and retains the original craft/workmanship. Any discoloration, chipping/cracking, surface wear, or structural damage is noted. 

NOTE: “The Brush Washer” was created simultaneously alongside the emergence of calligraphic and ink painting practices in early Japan. Suijou are bowl-like, and some have wide mouths, making them popular for use as brush washers, while others have small mouths, but as interest in the accouterments of calligraphy grew, many stylized Hissen pieces developed.

The Brush Washer can be made of many types of materials, (bronze, brass, porcelain), and is meant to hold water used in grinding the ink, and used for washing the brush, and to remove excess ink from a brush while painting or after the painting is completed. Some can be quite elaborate and others quite simple, all celebrating the material from which it was made.

“The dragon” is one of four legendary creatures, (known as the Four Celestial Emblems), who guard the four cosmic directions (Red Bird –S; Dragon –E; Tortoise –N; and the Tiger – W). The Dragon is the Guardian of the East, and is identified with the Spring season. There are four types of Dragons representing Japanese folklore: Celestial Dragons, who guard the mansions of the Gods; Spiritual Dragons, who rule wind & rain but can also cause flooding; Earth Dragons, who cleanse the rivers & deepen the oceans; and Treasure-Guarding Dragons, who protect precious metals & stones. According to most resources, the Japanese dragon typically has only three claws compared to the Chinese dragon that has five, and is reserved for use by only the Imperial family.