«Four Guardian Deities« Flower Basket

Rōkansai Iizuka

Iizuka Rōkansai (1890-1958), «Four Guardian Deities« Flower Basket , Showa era (1926-1989), circa 1946, H 9 in. (23 cm)

Bamboo, rattan; bundled circular plaiting, openwork diagonal plaiting over parallel-line construction, twined mat plaiting, twining, braiding, knotting

The Tochigi basket is named Hotei, doubtless in reference to its relaxed, wide-bellied form recalling the paunchy popular Japanese god of that name. The present basket, however is named Shijin, referring to four guardian deities of early Chinese cosmology: Seiryū (Azure Dragon) of the East, Suzaku (Vermilion Bird) of the South, Byakko (White Tiger) of the West, and Genbu (Black Turtle-Snake) of the North. In 1926, the same subject had been tackled more literally by Tanabe Chikuunsai I on a square Chinese-style basket, executed mostly in rattan, that incorporates four panels of elaborate pictorial bamboo plaiting, each of them depicting one of the Four Guardians in stained bamboo on a pale background. Apart from their shared formality, the two baskets could hardly be more different in appearance, but perhaps Rōkansai´s title refers to the four double loops that descend from the braided bamboo decoration surrounding the neck. A smaller but similar basket by Rōkansai, named Hōden (Shrine), forms part of the promised gift of Diane and Arthur Abbey to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Literature
Erik Thomsen: Masterpieces of Japanese Bamboo Baskets, Erik Thomsen Gallery, New York 2017 (forthcoming)

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Erik Thomsen Gallery

"Japanese and South East Asian Works of Art"

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