basket in a squared,
globular form with a loop-style handle. Woven of honey-toned split,
smoked bamboo with a root wood handle. Signed on the reverse with an
incised signature by the artist: Tosho (Kato Toshosai, active in Mie
circa late 19th – early 20th century). Late Meiji – early
Taisho era, circa 1890 – 1915.
With the original, period storage box, inscribed on the exterior of the
lid: Edo no Hana Kago or Branch Flower Basket.
Kato Toshosai was a bamboo craft artist working in Mie Prefecture. Very
little information can be found on him, though it appears that his
family once worked for the Todo Clan.
Numbers of this style of flower basket were made by bamboo studios in
the Kansai area during the late Meiji and early Taisho eras. This is
the first signed example we have seen. As well, the use of light-toned
bamboo rather than dark creates a dramatic contrast with the handle and
sets this apart from all the others.
Toshosai adapts basic twill plaiting for the body. The stays were cut
from rounded material which was cut lengthwise and flattened, causing
long splits to texture the surface. Differential cleaning of the smoked
bamboo highlights this texture with deeper orange-brown coloration.
Gathering the stays together at the rim into stacked bundles, the
weaver then twists them over and through one another, fanning them
slightly in the process to create a rim that rises and falls with fluid
movement. This treatment echoes in the bundled feet on the four lower
corners. The honey coloration contrasts with the dark, red-brown root
wood material that arcs in the handle and splays into fingers on the
other side of the rim before running in and out of the body and rim
Contrasting angularity in the feet and root wood sections balances a
sweeping, curling treatment around the shoulders and rim. The handle
rises asymmetrically from corner to corner, offsetting the faces of the
basket at an angle. A play of color and texture further enlivens the
surface to dramatic and beautiful effect.
16 5/8” high x 14 ¼” wide x 14 ½” deep.