Length: 1.220 m
Bequeathed by P.T. Brooke Sewell
Asia JA 1969.2-10.1
Hanging flower vase
Meiji era, late 19th century AD
Soon after the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the samurai warrior class lost their status, and with it the right to wear two swords. Many metalworkers, who formerly made sword fittings such as tsuba (sword guards) and fuchi/kashira (sword mounts), adapted their skills to making ornamental objects.
The basic form of this vase is an iron gourd, with gilt and patinated bronze decoration of a vine, leaves, a snake, birds and insects. An inscription on a metal plate on the back translates as: 'Made by Shōami Katsuyoshi, grandson of Shōami Michiyoshi, the ninth generation of the Shōami family of sword mounters and inlayers'.
The extravagance of the design may be a sign of the confusion of taste in the Meiji era, but the technical brilliance of the craftsmanship is dazzling.
L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)