Ivory carving (okimono) of an elephant with musicians (one of a pair). Manufactured in Japan in August 1865 by Koyosai Yushin, whose signature appears on the underside. The inscription underneath indicates that Yushin produced this okimono on request, and it is probably a pair with the related item.

An okimono is an small, carved Japanese decorative object created specifically for display, and typically depicts domestic scenes of farmers, fishermen, and children and occasionally, studies of birds, animals and flowers.

Similar to, but larger than netsuke - which served a practical function as a fastener or toggle - okimono were often presented in the tokonoma, an interior alcove or recess in Japanese homes for the display of pictures or decorative art objects. During the Meiji period (1868-1912), many okimono were made for export to the west.

The musicians have a Chinese appearance, not uncommon in Japanese okimono carvings at this time in which representations of 'Karako', or Chinese, were a popular subject. In the Edo period (1603-1867) in Japan, it was considered a good omen to view foreign animals and their performances, thus it is not unlikely that this okimono was produced as a good luck charm.

Physical Description

One elephant has a lotus flower on its back. It is standing on a base, with three musicians on its left side, two musicians on its right side, and a flautist under its left ear. The other elephant is slightly smaller, has a seated figure on its back and two musicians on its left side, and three musicians on its right.

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