The square central section is glazed, mirrored and rotates, with additional inner frames, all above a frieze with a disguised drawer, surmounted by a pagoda roof with upswept eaves, pendant bronze bells, aoi mon and serpentine dragons, the finial comprising a ho-ho with open wings; the base comprises four deeply carved cabriole legs with ho-hoshoulders and feathered claw feet resting on minogame whose tails support a circular spinach-marble shelf, with a similar marble set into the solid stretcher, decorated throughout with cloud scrolls, tendrils, inro and many auspicious symbols, the creatures’ eyes rendered in mother-of-pearl, inscribed ‘Behold fire’, Yokohama, Japan, circa 1900.
Provenance: Fletcher’s Auction House, Houston, Texas. October 9-11 1981 Catalogue. Lot number 583 and envelope illustration.
Footnote: This is an intriguing cabinet in many ways. The inscription “hino yojin” indicates a place for candlesticks or other light sources in a grand interior, however the inner drilled frames within the glass doors, and the fact that the whole display section rotates, would suggest something of great value and artistic merit was displayed inside. The carvings are related to the mythological Palace of the Dragon God of the Sea, (Ryugu-jo). Depending on various versions of the legend this underwater palace was made from pure crystal, each of the four sides had a different season and one day in the palace was equal to a century in our world. The most famous legend refers to Urashima Taro who was carried down to this magical place on the back of a minogame or giant turtle. The ho-ho birds are symbols of good fortune, which, combined with minogame. represent in particular longevity, fidelity and wisdom. The aoi motif was originally the mon (heraldic device) of the Tokugawa shogunate but in the Meiji period these symbols were increasingly used for purely decorative purposes on export wares.