MIYAMOTO SHOKO 宮本商行

(Japanese, Meiji Era 1868-1912)

Bear with fish

Bronze 11.4 x 21.3 in. (29 x 54 cm.)

Signed MIYAMOTO sei 宮本製

Miyamoto (1)


TFAX89D

Description

Exquisite representation of a bear coming back from fishing.

The Artist

Like the Yamaguchi Tankin Kabushiki Gaisha in Osaka, the Hattori Tokeiten and the Maruki company in Nihonbashiku, both in Tokyo, Miyamoto Shoko, located in the Ginza district of Tokyo, was a high level commissioning company, patronizing high quality work from leading artists as Kaniya Kuniharu (1869 – after 1910) and Oshima Joun (1858 – 1940).
It was founded in 1880 as a first specialty shop of silverware. Family members of the Emperor of Japan were given silverware made by Miyamoto Shoko since the company became a Purveyor to the Imperial Household Agency of Japan in 1899.
An article in the “Overland Monthly and the Out West Magazine” from 1910 described the company as :
“The Miya Moto Shoko stores is one of the representative establishments of the Japanese empire. It is a marvelous exhibit continually of the possibilities in curios, silks, drapes, rugs, ivories woods and articles of virtu, carvings and a multitude of other things. The Miya Moto Shoko is purveyor to His Imperial Majesty's household by permit, and this means that everything that is wonderful may be seen there. Tourists who go to Tokyo and leave without seeing this store will have left without seeing one of the magnificent wonders of the modern world. The place should be included in every tourist's tablets in order to refresh his memory.”
The company still exist today and sells exquisite Japanese silverware made by hand in Japan, its skilled silversmiths include a “living national treasure”.
We believe this piece could have been commissioned to Kaniya Kuniharu since the resemblance with an artwork auctioned at Bonhams in 2009 with almost the same theme and quality : https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/16867/lot/280/

Meiji Era

In the 50 years leading up to the dawn of the 20th century, Japan transformed itself from an isolated feudal nation to a world power. The traditional arts seemed doomed to extinction as the country raced to modernize its industries.
However, after the young Emperor Meiji assumed the throne in 1868 and prohibited sword-wearing and disestablished Buddhism swordsmiths, sword decorators and bronze-casters, Japan's new leaders realised that the historic skills of the metalworker, lacquerer, enameller and ceramic artist could play a vital part in the struggle to compete in international markets and to demonstrate the brilliance of Japanese craftsmanship. Japan opened its treasures to the world.
Before long, visitors to international exhibitions in Europe and America were confronted with astonishing displays of Japanese artistic creativity and technical virtuosity. They were dazzled, amazed and awed at the sight of ceramics, textiles, and sculpture of such unsurpassed artistry, astonishing intricacy, and a degree of technical perfection never even conceived of in the West.
The masterpieces of Meiji art, in a unique style blending the best of traditional design with prevailing international taste, are unrivalled in the quality of their craftsmanship and were avidly sought by Western collectors. Japanese bronzes were, for example, successfully shown at the Vienna international exposition of 1873 and the 492 works submitted by Japanese artists to the Nuremburg metalwork exhibition in 1885 won widespread admiration, the first prize going to Suzuki Chokichi (1848-1919) for a great bronze eagle.
In more recent times, however, they have been neglected by common scholars and collectors alike, leaving appreciation to a select number of connoisseurs. Time for a rediscovery.