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Neil Holton Japanese Art

Sea Woman (Ama)

An Ivory figure of a Sea Woman (Ama). Still wet from her last visiting the sea the pretty youth hops up and down to maintain her body temperature. The skirt and her hair still saturated sticks to her body, only these cover her nakedness.

In one hand she holds the results of her last dive, a fish clenched to her waist, the natural aperture between arm and body forms a beautiful himotoshi. The other hand and arm is brought up to her torso area. This aids her balance while hopping, keeping her warm, though from a composition perspective it serves to cover her breast area, tantalising the viewer. The ivory is fine and creamy acquiring a wonderful finish over its two centuries of life.

A more dynamic composition than usual, our Ama is by a group of artists that specialised in the dynamic. On the very rare occasion a signed version has been recorded. This group carved the people they saw on a daily basis, performers, road porters even beautiful court ladies with a kitten or puppy at her feet, these latter are sometimes found with the signature Tomotada, however their works have nothing to do with this artist, nor even Kyoto at all. They are as Osaka as can be. Not a first-gen figure, our example was created in the first third of the 19th Century, certainly by the Garaku II studio. This studio had a particular speciality for these mid sized types of figures, the blue print of which could be adapted from a Sea Woman to Daidai seller.

Please see; SL Moss. The Elly Nordskog Collection. Number 143. Or Sumo. Please see; Tiny Titans. Karl - Ludwig Kley. Number 56. Even Children holding aloft a goat. Please see; Scholten. Expressions of Style. Number 12.

They are all spirited figures, with their own character, though I would personally say that their Sea Women or Fishergirls as they are more often referred to have that something, that extra special quality that for me makes them their most successful figure of them all.

Pearl diving has been a tradition off the coast of Japan for over a thousand years. Even today the tradition continues, albeit with wet suits and goggles rather than grass skirts and blurred vision. Beginning as young as ten years old the tradition was passed down through families and divers often continued collecting food and pearls from the sea floor into advanced age, sometimes over eighty.

Attributed to Garaku II studio. Osaka. Very early 19th Century.


8.1cm High