or decorative box in a rectangular form set on short, pedestal-style
legs, the sides and top decorated in deep relief with stylized marsh
grasses and droplets of dew, the lid surmounted in high-relief with a
flying, modernist kingfisher. The frame and outlines of the grasses of
hammered silver, the grass interiors inlaid in shibuichi, the
backgrounds of shakudō,
the dew drops of hammered silver with touches of gilt, the kingfisher
of shakudō inlaid in two colors of gold, shibuichi, silver,
and red bronze, the interior lined in purple velvet. Inscribed and
signed with a chiseled signature on the reverse: Shōwa
Roku-nen Saku, Sobashima Minoru or Made in the 6th Year of the
Shōwa (era), (by) Sobashima Minoru (Sobashima Minoru, active
in Tōkyō early 20th century). Shōwa 6 or 1931.
double tomobako or original box, inscribed on the exterior of the outer
box lid: Kazari-bako, Gin Shakudō Shibuichi Kin Zōgan
or Ornamental Box, Inlaid in Silver, Shakudō, Shibuichi and
Gold, and signed: Sobashima Minoru Saku or Made by Sobashima Minoru.
Included in the box is the original exhibition label for the piece.
This box was made for
exhibition at the 12th Teiten in Shōwa 6 or 1931, and it is
illustrated in the Nittenshi, volume 10, page 282, number 99, where it
is titled: Hisui Kazari-bako or Kingfisher Ornamental Box.
Sobashima Minoru worked in Tōkyō, and exhibited at the
government-sponsored exhibitions three times: this box at the 12th
Teiten in 1931; a cylindrical, flaring vase at the 13th Teiten in 1932
(Nittenshi, volume 10, page 461, number 111); and a globular vase with
a stylized, running stag inlaid on the side at the 14th Teiten in 1933
(Nittenshi, volume 11, page 278, number 131).
This spectacular box revisits a traditional motif and transforms it
with a modernist idiom. Across the lid a kingfisher glides, fishing
over dew-laden marsh grass. An array of chevrons renders the
bird’s feathers, while a strongly linear treatment of its
form and features completes the stylization. The artist elevates the
relief to bring the outlines of the kingfisher, grasses and dew into
prominence. Geometric components possess visual weight almost equal to
the imagery they detail. Contrasting alloys and metals heighten this
effect: so grey-green shibuichi flattens the center of the
silver-bordered grass; shakudō and gold compete with silver
and red bronze in the kingfisher; while the ground of shakudō
water breaks into angular shapes outlined by the silver grass and
punctuated by silver droplets. By the 1930s one rarely sees artists
lavishing precious metals and time-consuming inlays like these on their
work. No doubt this was partly a matter of expense in an increasingly
difficult economy. Sobashima Minoru refused to compromise, so his
kingfisher box remains a glittering tribute to tradition from the most
modern of perspectives.
2 ½” high x 8 3/8” wide x 4 ¾” deep.