Gyokuminsai - 5636

Not signed, Japan

Shishi with Puppy
late 19th century
ivory  
3,0x4,7x3,3 cm
2005 bequest Maria Taglietti Lanfranchi
Inv. 5636



This ivory okimono depicts a shishi with its puppy; the shishi holds in its jaws the stem of an immortality mushroom while the cub plays with a sphere. The composition is set on an oval platform, at its base the signature Gyokuminsai (玉珉齋) is engraved in a rectangular reserve. We do not have information on Gyokuminsai. It maybe a variation of the signature Gyokumin, artist born in Tokyo in 1859.

The mushroom of immortality (reishi, 霊芝) is a recurring theme in Japanese art, imported from China where it was known with the name lingzhi. The shape of this symbol of longevity derives from a mushroom born in nature, the mannentake (万年茸, literally the "mushroom of ten thousand years"), that resembles a cloud and it is often associated to the feminine principle in (in Chinese yin).

More information on the shishi can be found in the description of another piece from the Lanfranchi collection that depicts two of these mythological animals.
An example of a particular use of the shishi is visible in a seal type netsuke.

G.R.

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