This vintage copper okimono is made by the famous Japanese metal worker artist named Okuni. This statue is called the ‘Benzai-ten 弁財天’ a Japanese Goddess. Benzaiten is the goddess of everything that flows: water, time, words, speech, eloquence, music and by extension, knowledge. According to the Japanese seller she is copper, and while we have no way of testing, most often they are a metal alloy of mixed metal often called ‘antimony’ which includes copper as one of it’s elements. I am not quite perfected in understanding metals yet so do not know the method use in making this okimono but it is so beautiful and rich and looks like it has been painted and glazed. The Benzai-ten features are humble, beautiful and very real looking. The famous 阿国 Okuni was referred to as ‘a great a metal worker’ and as a ‘he’. This lovely Benzai-ten is shown holding Japanese string instrument. maybe the biwa 琵琶, which is a Japanese short-necked fretted lute, often used in narrative storytelling. The biwa is said to be the chosen instrument of another goddess Benten, the goddess of music, eloquence, poetry, and education in Buddhism.
It is signed and marked on the bottom by the artist, and the box is also signed and marked both on the outside and inside of the lid. I have found the name ‘Okuni Toshiro’ several times on metal work pieces during the Meiji and Taisho period so the timeline fits with the age as we understand at about 70 years old. It would be a great stature of decor in anyone's home who loves music or collects Japanese items, especially metal ware, and this is a well- made ornament. This is a true tomobako, meaning it was made especially for the item with the artist name and signature. This will add value to the piece in addition for safe storage when needed. She is a small piece, that of a netsuke. She is in excellent condition. For the music lover in your life.
SIZE: Width 1.4 inches or 3.55 cms, Length 1 inch or 2.54 cms, Height 1.7 inches or 4.31 cm
Benzaiten 弁才天 is a Japanese Buddhist goddess, who originated from the Hindu goddess Saraswati. Worship of Benzaiten arrived in Japan during the 6th through 8th centuries, mainly via the Chinese translations of the Sutra of Golden Light, which has a section devoted to her. She is also mentioned in the Lotus Sutra and often depicted holding a biwa, a traditional Japanese lute, just as Saraswati holds a veena. Benzaiten is a highly syncretic entity with both a Buddhist and a Shinto side.
Referred to as Sarasvatî Devî in Sanskrit meaning ‘Goddess Saraswati’, Benzaiten is the goddess of everything that flows: water, time, words, speech, eloquence, music and by extension, knowledge. The original characters used to write her name read ‘Biancaitian’ in Chinese and ‘Bensaiten’ in Japanese 辯才天 and reflect her role as the goddess of eloquence. Because the Sutra of Golden Light promised protection of the state, in Japan she became a protector-deity, at first of the state and then of people. Lastly, she became one of the Seven Gods of Fortune when the Sino-Japanese characters used to write her name changed to 弁財天 Benzaiten, emphasizing her role in bestowing monetary fortune. Sometimes she is called Benten although this name usually refers to the god Brahma.
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