Bronze Miyao sculpture of Urashima Taro
Gilt seal "Miyao sei zo"
Height: 15.3" (38.9 cm) — Japan, c. 1890 (Meiji Period)
This fantastic Miyao bronze sculpture of a man riding
a tortoise depicts one of the most ancient and popular of Japanese legends, that
of Urashima Taro. After saving the life of a tortoise, the skilled fisherman
Urashima was taken to the Palace of the Dragon King of the Sea as reward. For
the tortoise was none other than the princess of this fabulous realm in
disguise. After what seemed three years of a surreal courtly life, Urashima
expressed desire to return to his home. He received a box with instructions not
to open in the human world, though there he violated this decree and immediately
aged three hundred years, the time that had elapsed during his absence.
Here Urashima Taro is shown returning to the world of men, riding on a tortoise-servant of the Dragon King and holding the "princess" in his palm. He carries the box containing the suspended years of his life on his fishing pole, and his expression reflects both the curiosity of returning to a distant future and pondering the contents of his mysterious box.
Miyao Eisuke of Yokohama, his workshop renowned for powerful portrayals of legendary and historical figures, has rendered this tale with great craftsmanship and dynamic depiction. The crisp bronze, with varying rich brown patinas, shows great movement and different textural effects. Gilt accents give life to the patterns and the belt on his clothing, the cord of the box, and the claws of the tortoise. Miyao shows fine attention to detail by giving Urashima his own inro and ojime, also with gilt accents.