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Neil Holton Japanese Art

Onna Daruma

A wood sculpture of Onna Daruma (female Daruma). The object light, as its construction is made up of two parts, joined then treated with gesso and lacquered in red and gold.

This is then rubbed to a mottled finish. The face is polished and the eyes are inlaid in dark horn. The interior has been excavated considerably, for when one holds the object it feels light. Contained within the cavity is a ball, perhaps metal or heavy glass. This creates a kind of buoyancy to the object, when one attempts to topple Onna Daruma she returns to centre of balance. A highly unusual and very clever object, full of humour and character.

The Japanese, or certainly segments of Edo & Meiji period society have a unique take on humour. Idols that in other cultures that would be reserved for reverence alone can be coupled with the erotic world with ease. Daruma, the carrier of Zen Buddhism to Japan in roly poly doll form epitomises the ideal of 7 times down 8 times up. During the Edo period this saying related to a Daruma doll having talismanic qualities the ability to heal from the the small pox infection. Though this saying during these times also, certainly in the pleasure district had a connotation to the laying down of a prostitute with a client then returning upright to find another. Naughty yes, but we all need a bit of naughty in our life!

The style and treatment of this object screams the hand of a particular artist that worked in Osaka during the Meiji period. Admired by many collectors today, he appeals to the absurd within us all. Apparently a legendary drinker, one can imagine he carved most of his work inebriated, this state or either waking in the morning from a severe hangover directed his hand in a manner that is as near to inimitable as one can get…..literally to recreate his body of work one would risk liver disease, as it is difficult to imagine how one could recreate his work without the stupor. Sansho epitomises the saying ‘suffering for ones art’ though I suspect he would say I enjoyed every minute of it!

Anonymous. Osaka. First quarter of the 20th Century.

Attb: Sansho

Guide Price - £3850