Meiji Period ivory Okimono showing a crab amongst waves. c. 1880.

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Meiji Period ivory Okimono showing a crab amongst waves. c. 1880.

This superb and highly detailed okimono was carved in Japan towards the end of the nineteenth century. Some crabs have a special place in Japanese folklore. It is thought that the Heikegani crab's shell bears the image of a human face, in fact the face of a Heike Samurai that died at the battle of Dan-no-ura. Crabs that bore these markings were seldom if ever eaten. The crab depicted in this superb small okimono is amongst the waves and is offering an oyster in its claws. It carries a baby crab on its back which obscures on "eye" of the face. The ivory is carved from an outer section of tusk, which interestingly bears the natural patination to the base.

This stunning late nineteenth century ivory okimono is 5cm wide, 5cm deep and 2.2cm high. (Measurements approximate). It is in excellent condition, having only wear appropriate to its age. It has no damage and no restoration.