Japanese and Chinese antiques and art from B & C
Komai Inlaid Iron Hinged Box Dragonfly Mark Meiji

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All Items: Archives:Regional Art:Asian:Japanese: Pre 1920: item # 1128220

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

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Komai Inlaid Iron Hinged Box Dragonfly Mark Meiji

This exquisite fluted Japanese cast iron hinged box with extensive gold and silver inlays bears the engraved nine character dragonfly mark of Komai of Kyoto and dates to the Meiji period (1868-1912). Engraved into the gilt brass base is the nine-character Komai signature beneath the company’s dragonfly (“tombo”) symbol. The mark reads ”By Komai, living Kyoto, Japan.” This dragonfly symbol was reserved for the Komai Studio’s more important objects with the finest workmanship.

This diminutive covered box is a simply spectacular example of Meiji metalwork, and the heavy gold inlay with which it is extensively decorated is truly a tour de force. The top is covered with a wonderfully detailed lake and landscape scene with sailboats, houses and gardens, all rendered in truly extraordinary detail. There is silver inlay on the top of Mt. Fuji to depict its snowy peak. The scalloped side panels are inlaid with a profusion of minutely detailed gold grape leaves around the bottom section and delicate China Flowers (“karahana”) along the edge of the cover. The inlay method used is one known as “nunome-zogan,” an intricate technique in which thin sheets of gold or silver were hammered into a fine mesh-like grid engraved onto the surface of the iron ground. The photographs simply do not do justice in capturing the dazzling details of this little gem.

The interior and the base are crafted in gilt brass or bronze. Inside the cover is a finely engraved phoenix (“ho-o” bird) flying atop paulownia (“kiri”) blossoms, an elegant and symbolic design motif. Engraved into the gilt base inside the box is a flowing stream along which maple leaves are floating. There is engraved decoration of birds in flight above the Komai dragonfly mark on the bottom of the box, which is raised on four applied gilt feet.

Japanese metalwork, technically and artistically, has been unrivaled by that of other cultures for many centuries. In Kyoto, the Komai family was recognized for its fine decorative metalwork during the Meiji period. Made by a very difficult process of metalwork, Komai wares typically had a base of iron or steel which was decorated with minute bits of gold and/or silver and copper in exquisite detail. Their most successful products were generally small items such as boxes, dishes, trays and these miniature chests. Even in Meiji Japan, Komai's distinctive inlaid iron pieces were fervently sought after by wealthy patrons.

CONDITION is excellent, with only minor surface oxidation near the hinge.

DIMENSIONS: 2 ¼” (5.8 cm) diameter, 1” (2.5 cm) high. Weight is substantial for its size: 4.5 ounces (128 grams).

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