Kurama Tengu Sojobo Polychrome Gold Leaf Showa Wood Carving Signed 鞍馬天狗
Vintage Japanese Wood Carving
Kurama Tengu Sojobo
Kabuki Dance Performance
Circa: Showa Period. 1940s’ or earlier
H 14.5 in. (37cm), W 7 in. (17.5cm), D 6 in. (15cm)
A red hair Kabuki Dancer is commonly referred to be the Renjishi Lion 蓮獅子. However, the small “tokin” crown wore by this menacing magical being confirmed that he is the king of the tengu, Kurama Sojobo 鞍馬山僧正坊, the most powerful and best-known Tengu in Mt. Kurama. He was believed to be the tutelary deity of yamabushi warrior monks, and said to have taught the famous warrior Minamoto No Yoshitsune (源義経, 1159 – 1189) the arts of swordsmanship in the late Heian period.
Expertly carved in a technique called ichiboku-zukuri 一本造, and bringing Sojobo to life from a single block of Japanese hardwood; this vigorous figure is standing erect on one foot, with his right knee thrusting forward, in his stretched arm a small fan held tightly in hand; the figure is poised in a stylized dance movement that denoted a mighty presence in a commanding role; in view of the bulging golden eyes, raised eyebrows, wiggling tongue and two rows of finely carved teeth in the opened mouth of this supernatural being, the King of Tengu’s realistic facial features are serene and hauntingly mesmerizing. The sculpted figure is coated with gofun (gesso and seashell mixture), then an application of gold leaf cover the entire voluminous monk robe (yuigesa 結袈裟), and finished with an elaborate overlay of hand-painted motifs that accentuate an effect of theatrical opulence. Signed in engraved kanji: Hakuri 柏里; this exquisite carving is attributed to the early Showa period.