Japanese and Chinese antiques and art from B & C
Antique Clay Inari Shinto Shrine Fox Figure

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All Items: Archives:Regional Art:Asian:Japanese: Pre 1920: item # 1077869

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B & C   Antiques
P. O. Box 291
Derby, CT 06418

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Antique Clay Inari Shinto Shrine Fox Figure

Dating to the early 20th century (Meiji/Taisho period), this engaging seated clay fox (“kitsune”) likely once stood on the open shrine shelf (“kamidana”) high on the wall of some old Japanese house. With his slanted eyes and upright ears and tail, this alert-looking fox sits attentively on a rectangular pedestal. Pottery foxes were formed by pressing sheets of clay into a concave mold. The clay pieces were joined to produce a hollow figure. After firing, the figures were coated with gesso and their features painted with bright colors. The “tama” (precious jewel) on the pedestal of this fox signifies abundance and wealth.

Foxes have always been credited with magic powers in Japan, and there is a large body of folklore relating to them. The fox is a legendary creature believed to possess supernatural powers and shift changing abilities, and their power is believed to grow as they age. When Japanese foxes appear as seated pairs, they are the messengers of Inari, the Shinto goddess of the rice harvest. Rice is the staple of the Japanese diet, hence Inari is one of the most important Shinto deities. There are countless Inari shrines all over Japan, the entrances to which are flanked by a pair of life-size stone foxes which are the messengers and guardians of the goddess. The male fox holds a scroll in his open mouth and sits on the left side of the shrine entrance. In addition to protecting Shinto shrines, foxes are also the “kami” (spirit or divinity) of business success in Japan.

CONDITION overall is very good, with normal paint loss and some clay chips consistent with age and usage. The base of the tail has been restored. These objects are rarely found in perfect condition.

DIMENSIONS: 10” (25.4 cm) high; base is 4 3/8” (11.1 cm) x 3 ¼” (8.3 cm).

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