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Green or Blue, which will win this contest? Two shishi lions vie for our attention on this absolutely fabulous pair of 19th century screens. The images are performed with pigment on applied silver, not an easy medium from the start. One creature pounces, mouth open, teeth barred while the other crouches, mouth shut, ready to leap. Peony, a flower typically associated with the creatures, grows about them. Each screen is 68 x 137 inches (173 x 348 cm). They have been fully remounted at some time in the near past (latter 20th century, 1970-80s?) and are in fine condition. Some repairs were affected at that time. A most impressive set of images, incredibly rare.
Open and Closed Mouths of Guardians: Japanese Shishi (Shisa in Okinawa) Fu-dogs or Pinyin in China, Inari (fox guardians in front of shrines) as well as the Buddhist Niomon images are almost always depicted one with mouth open (Agyo) the other mouth closed (Ungyo). As a pair, they complement each other. One represents latent power, mouth held tightly closed in wait, while the other represents overt power, baring his teeth in action. The most common explanation of this imagery is the open mouth figure (feminine in Japan) scares away evil with its cry, while the closed mouth figure (masculine) keeps inside fortune and good spirits. Most Japanese adaptations state that the male is inhaling, representing life, while the female exhales, representing death.