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A rare and powerful inro by Hara Yoyusai in takamakie. To the front, the imposing figure of Fudō Myō-ō stands in gold against a red ground. To the verso are his attendants, Kongara and Seitaka.
Fudo is stood in a typical pose, a subject that is more common to Buddhist sculpture and painting than inro design. Fudo is wearing a skirt-like garment known as a johaku, which wraps over one shoulder leaving most of his chest bare. The top half of the johaku is decorated in a repeating swastika pattern, which in Sanskrit means “conducive to well-being”. The bottom half is gold on gold hiramakie tendrils and flowers, which provides a delicate counterpoint to the powerful composition.
Fudo holds in his right hand a kurikara (devil-subduing sword), the hilt of which has been inlaid in aogai. In his left hand is a rope used to bind demons. In the middle of Fudo’s head he has a third, all-seeing eye. Fudo stands against his aureole of flames, rendered in gold, dramatically working their way up the front of the inro, touching the top case. The contrast between the design and ground is striking, the artist has walked a tightrope; it would have been easy to have made the inro garish and busy. But in his use of only three shades of gold and well-sculpted takamakie, the composition contrasts beautifully against the strong red polished ground.
To the verso, Kongara and Seitaka – who are companions of Fudo and often depicted in artwork – are flanking him. They stand in gold takamakie wearing elaborate, loose-fitting clothes full of movement. Their clothes are decorated in detailed hiramakie tendrils and cloud patterns. One holds a sword concealed within its scabbard. The other is performing the Dharmachakra (Mudra of turning the wheel of teaching), where the thumbs and forefingers of each hand form circles. The left hand faces inward, the right hand, out. The hands are held on a level with the heart.
I believe that it is Seitaka who is depicted holding the sword, as he is often shown in red with a fierce appearance, and that Kongara is performing the Dharmachakra. He is a contrast to Seitaka, with a serene and peaceful appearance.
The internal compartments are lacquered in gold fundame.
Signed, Yoyusai, with a Kakihan (Hara Yoyusai 1772–1846)
Early 19th century, circa 1820
Height: 9.6cm Width: 7.3cm Depth: 1.7cm
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