A four-case inrō depicting Shiba Onko, stood to the side of a large jar with a rock in hand. Shiba Onko has smashed open the vase to free his drowning friend. To the verso, their remaining friends run away in panic. Each of the boys’ clothes are sporting various patterns in gold hiramaki-e, enriched with aogai and gold kirikane. The water jar and four boys are rendered in takamaki-e and hiramaki-e, against a gold ground with splashes of muro nashiji.
Shiba Onko was a statesman, historian and scholar of the Northern Song dynasty, renowned for his intelligence. But his fame came at a much younger age. The scene depicted in this inrō tells the story of four friends who had climbed upon a large vase to watch fish swim within. One of the boys leaned in to get a better view but ended up head first in the vase and unable to escape; his friends feared him drowned. All but the young Shiba Onko ran away in fright. Shiba Onko picked up a rock and smashed the front of the vase, saving his friend from certain death.
Signed, Jokasai Saku
Chiura Obata (1885-1975)
Chiura Obata was an artist born in 1885 in Okayama Prefecture, Japan. At the age of 14 he went to Tokyo where he studied with Tanryo Murata, Kogyo Terasaki and Goho Hashimoto. In 1903 he moved to the USA. He spent much of the 1920s painting landscapes throughout California and helped establish the East West Art Society in San Francisco in 1921.
In 1965, Obata received the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Emperor’s Award, for promoting goodwill and cultural understanding between the United States and Japan. He died in 1975, aged 90.
Kanin family collection
The Kan’in-no-miya (閑院宮家) was the youngest of the four shinnōke, branches of the Imperial Family of Japan who were eligible to succeed to the Chrysanthemum Throne in the event that the main line should die out. It was founded by Prince Naohito, the son of Emperor Higashiyama.
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