Japanese Satsuma Hotei, ca. 1925
I grew up in a house with a number of Asian artifacts. My father and mother after World War II lived in Japan for two years and brought them back. However, this item was a found item. My father bought an old house as an office in upstate New York in 1953. There was a large wooden crate in the basement. When they uncrated it, which I think was probably a year after he bought the building, this was in here. We have intermittently tried to find out things about it. We obviously know it is a Japanese Buddha, or Hotei. But in terms of what, when, and where, we're really unsure. We played with it as children, it terrified my children, it's dressed for all the seasons intermittently, so he's like a member of the family.
So you know what it is. This is a figure of the Japanese immortal Hotei, H-O-T-E-I, who's representative, broadly speaking, of prosperity and good fortune. This is a high-fired earthenware that has a glaze. And this type of glaze that's in relief is called moriage, which just means "in relief." And that's what we see here on the surface-- this very high-relief glaze that's made of an enamel that incorporates lead, which fires at a low temperature. So this was made in a mold, but then there would be finishing work that was done by hand. We see lots of these figures at the Roadshow, and most of them are about eight or ten inches high. It's obviously important because it's large. It's meant to dominate a location. And why is that? And that has to do with the role of natural disaster and how our lives are affected. And specifically, famine. Prior to the 20th century, this was something that was a constant. There were literally hundreds of famines that swept through Japan where you would have a crop failure. The main crop, of course, in Japan, was?
Rice. It was devastating. So to have a figure, an immortal figure such as this, that represented prosperity... prosperity meant also being well fed, not having to worry about where your meals were coming from, and that also affected your attitude. So you always see this figure with a big smile, with a large belly, showing that he was in prosperous times-- may those prosperous times be with you today. And the size indicates that this wasn't likely made for someone's home. This was made for a location that would have been seen by a number of people, probably from a distance, because it is large. That may have been in a prominent family's household temple.
It may have been a public location. So we're going to tip him back. There's an impressed stamp that says "Made in Japan," indicating that this was approved for export, so that the duties were paid. As to the date, I think it was probably made around 1920 to 1930. And just to share with everyone, you can see that it's heightened with gilding in all the high spots throughout. And that's going to add stature and importance to this figure. The value is going to probably be in the $1,500 to $2,500 range at auction.
Great. We're happy to have it. We're happy that it has good meaning, good luck. And we got to rub its belly a lot.
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