japan, art, design, animal, motif, symbol
Carp in a Stream by Utagawa Hiroshige, c.1833. Museum no. E.302-1895
Carp in a Stream
Utagawa Hiroshige (1797 - 1858)
Museum no. E.302-1895
A signed & lettered colour woodblock of a carp swimming in blue water, the light catching its scales. The carp is a symbol of the Samurai and can represent courage, dignity, resignation of fate, endurance and good fortune. It can also symbolize love.
Gift cover (fukusa) featuring cranes, 19th century. Museum no. T.262-1959
Detail of a gift cover (fukusa)
Museum no. T.262-1959
Detail of a gift cover or fukusa showing cranes;with red caps and white and blue feathers on a very dark blue ground. Cranes in Japanese textiles generally represent longevity and good fortune. They are most closely associated with Japanese New Year and wedding ceremonies.
Netsuke of a Tiger, 1750 - 1850. Museum no. A.939-1910
c. 1750 - 1850
Museum no. A.939-1910
Netsuke (toggle) in the shape of a tiger with mother-of-pearl green eyes, its mouth open as if growling. The tiger motif denotes courage, and is an attribute of warrior heroes.
Kimono with butterfly design, 1830 - 1880. Museum no. T.269-1960
1830 - 1880
Silk and silk embroidery
Museum no. T.269-1960
Outer kimono (uchikake) with long swinging sleeves (furisode) of white figured silk (rinzu) and embroidery of flowers, butterflies and fences in coloured silks. The butterfly is the symbol of joy and longevity, and also embodies the souls of both the living and the dead.
Textile with a tortoise design. Museum no. T.134-1968
Textile with tortoise design
Cotton with paste-resist decoration (tsutsugaki)
Museum no. A.939-1910
Detail of a length of fabric showing a grey tortoise climbing through an orange & white striped opening on a deep blue ground. In Japanese mythology the tortoise carries the world on its back and is the guardian of the northern section of the universe, together with the snake. Its shell is believed to show sacred inscriptions, and it is believed to live to an exceptional age. The tortoise is associated with longevity.
Netsuke of a frog on a lotus leaf, 18th century. Museum no. A.982-1910
c. 1750 - 1850
Museum no. A.982-1910
Netsuke (toggle) in the shape of a frog sitting on a lotus leaf. The frog symbolises good luck, and is often worn as a charm when travelling, particularly on journeys over water. The lotus flower denotes spiritual flowering, and is a central motif of Buddhist philosophy.
Button netsuke with spider-devil design, 19th century. Museum no. 564-1904
Museum no. 564-1904
Large button netsuke with design of the Spider-Devil, a beautiful woman riding a spider and reading a scroll, with a spiders web in the background. In Japan is seen as a symbol of industrious work, and can foretell the visit of a good friend. It can have more sinister attributes, as it is considered to be the weaver of the web of illusion.
Inro with dragonfly design, 18th century. Museum no. W.419-1910
Porcelain and laquer relief
Museum no. W.419-1910
Inro (small box) with dragonflies in porcelain and lacquer relief. Dragonflies are emblems of martial success, and also a symbol of late summer and early autumn.
Silver dish with swallow design, 1860 - 1880. Museum no. A.939-1910
1860 - 1880
Patinated copper, silver and gilt, gold
Museum no. 354-1880
Silver dish with incised & applied decoration in patinated copper, silver & gilt with shibuichi foot ring. Decorated with foliate branches (leaves and bud in copper and gold) and bamboo shoots framing two swallows (copper and gold) and an insect (butterfly or bee possibly) in flight. The swallow is a symbol of good luck, fertility and fidelity.