Decorative Dish


Decorative Dish



Mark: Koso with Kao (art mark) in a cartouche of two dragons

The large dish is decorated with a humorous scene of a monkey, clad in human clothes, peering through spectacles at a netsuke in the form of a monkey. The border of the dish is divided into panels containing items associated with scholars: these include personal seals, mirrors, archaic bronzes, and a roof tile. The fine gold lacquer ground is highlighted with raised details of the monkey and its patterned jacket. The creature’s eyes are detailed behind the crystal lenses of its spectacles and its fur is naturalistically delineated in fine lines of gold on a darker lacquer.
There is a long tradition in the Japanese art of anthropomorphic depictions of animals. This can be traced back to the Choju Jinbutsu Giga (Handscroll of Frolicking Animals and People) which dates to around 1100 and depicts, among many humorous scenes, animals in human attire enacting both courtly and everyday pursuits. On this dish, the monkey examines the netsuke (toggle) of the inro (literally “seal basket” and used for personal seals as well as medicines) which is signed by a known maker, Nakayama Komin (1808–70). However, it is decorated in the Shibayama style which was popular at the time this dish was made, rather than in Komin’s more eclectic style.

Sir Ratan Tata Art Collection


Japanese Art

Object Type

Decorative Art Plate


Lacquer with applied hardstone and mother-of-pearl decoration


Meiji period




c. 1880–90


Shibayama prefecture, Japan


Diameter 46 cm