A parcel gilt bronze incense burner representing Toba on his mule, Japan, Edo period (1603-1868), 19th century.
According to the legend, a Chinese official and poet nicknamed Toba in Japan (Su Shi in Chinese, 1036-1101), who lived under the Song in the service of the Emperors Shenzong and Zhezong, was unjustly banished by them, as a result of court intrigues. He would then have gone into exile on the back of a mule, with a wicker hat,, a book of his poems and a ruyi sceptre in his hands, symbolizing his old status as an imperial scholar.
Paradoxically absent or almost absent from Chinese art, it is in Japanese art that this figure of the intellectual and free-thinker artist was the most illustrated, on saber guards (Tsuba) of the 16 / 17th century, but especially then, at the end of the Edo era and under the Meiji era, even after, as a model for large decorative figures in bronze or in cloisonné enamels.
This example stands out for the quality of its sculpture, the expressiveness of Toba and his mule, the presence of gilding treated with occasional highlights and a beautiful patina. It obviously belongs to the most careful and less late productions of this model which later became very common among the decorative objects manufactured for the export market by Japanese artists between the end of the 19th century and the 1930s.
Treated as an incense burner, since Toba is removable, which allows the mule's belly to be used as a receptacle for incense, this bronze has also been enhanced by the artist by means of a stamp in relief under the belly of the animal.
Of a higher quality than the more common Toba which were subsequently massively produced, this bronze can be compared to another Toba on his mule sold by Galerie Zacke, lot 18, 28 October 2020
1 300 €