The Kura - Japanese Art Treasures

Robert Mangold has been working with Japanese antiques since 1995 with an emphasis on ceramics, Paintings, Armour and Buddhist furniture.

Devil in Priests Clothing by Suwa Sozan I

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Japanese: Stoneware: Pre 1920: Item # 1469330

Please refer to our stock # OC070 when inquiring.
The Kura
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23 Murasakino Monzen-cho
Kita-ward Kyoto 603-8216
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First we hear the clang of the hammer striking the bell, then the steadily approaching clop of his wooden shoes before the horrifying creature dressed in the robes of an itinerant priest appears; a ledger in one hand noting our sins. This is a very rare ceramic figurine by Suwa Sozan I enclosed in the original signed wooden box titled Nenbutsu Oni and bearing the seal of the imperial Art Academy. It is 30 cm (12 inches) tall and in excellent condition. He would have originally held a hammer, no longer extant. This summer, among other works by this artist, one of these sculptures, a one-eyed goblin, was on display at the Kyoto Kyocera Museum; part of their Imperial Art Academy Exhibition.
The Oni no Nenbutsu is one of the more popular figures from Otsu-e; a folk painting tradition from the town on the outskirts of Kyoto; the first or last stop coming to or leaving the capitol on the old Tokaido road. A pantheon of almost 200 characters, one of the most popular was the goblin, which came into vogue in the 18th century. Although the western goblin is a symbol of evil in religious iconography, in the Otsu-e tradition the symbol was used to satirize human folly and to remind people of the consequences of their actions. Other goblin images present remonstrations against arrogance, hypocrisy and carelessness. Utagawa Kuniyoshi created a woodblock print depicting the Otsu-e figures coming to life.
Sozan I (1852-1922) was born in Kutani country, present day Ishikawa prefecture, where he initially studied before moving to Tokyo in 1875. Over the next 25 years he would gravitate between Tokyo and Kanazawa, working at various kilns and research facilities. He again relocated, this time to Kyoto in 1900 to manage the Kinkozan Studio before establishing his own. His name became synonymous with celadon and refined porcelain and was one of only five potters to be named Teishitsu Gigei-in. The Teishitsu Gigei-in were members of the Imperial Art Academy, Perhaps in modern terms one might call them the predecessors to the Living National Treasures. However unlike the LNT, there were only five Pottery artists ever named Teishitsu Gigei-in, Ito Tozan, Suwa Sozan, Itaya Hazan, Miyagawa Kozan, and Seifu Yohei III. He was succeeded by his adopted daughter upon his death. He is held in the Kyoto National Museum among many others.