Japanese bronze Koi carp naturalistically modelled balanced on its fins with a rich brown patination, and eyes inlaid in shakudo and gold, signed on a square plaque Maruki sei まるき製 (made by Maruki), Meiji period (1868-1912).
The Maruki workshop was based in Sukiya Street, Nihonbashi ward-Tokyo, made fine quality bronzes and carvings during the Meiji era, and exhibited at many domestic and international exhibitions.
The Koi (nishikigoi 錦鯉) is symbolic of courage, strength of will and steadfastness in adversity.
They were brought to Japan from China in the 1st Century A.D. as a source of food, but in the late 19th century Japanese farmers began breeding the ornamental koi as pets for their vibrant colours and became prized possession.
Many legends are associated with the koi, the most famous is the ‘Dragon’s gate waterfall’ it tells the story of thousands koi fish swimming upstream theYellow River against strong currents, the ones that reach the top of these huge waterfalls transform into dragons.This fable teaches that through perseverance you may overcome all difficulties in life.
In Japan it also symbolises good fortune and fertility. During the Boys Festival called Tango no Sekku 端午の節句, that takes place every 5th May all families with a son born in the year, put a coloured carp streamers outside their homes raised on bamboo poles, as the koi is the symbol of the male child.
Meiji no Takara 明治の宝 Treasures of Imperial Japan, the Nasser D. Khalili Collection, the Kibo Foundation 1995, Metalwork Part II, no. 93 and no. 103.
Also see Splendors of Imperial Japan, Arts of the Meiji Period, J. Earle no. 188.
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