Miwa Kiei, Shibata Zeshin

Tokyo, circa 1860

Jittoku rests his hands on Hanzan’s shoulders as they laugh with their heads together in a conspiratorial way. Hanzan is identified by the scroll he holds, a reference to his role as a poet. His companion is elsewhere depicted with a broom with which he sweeps up at the temple where he serves. The two eccentrics live a life of simplicity and seclusion and are a familiar emblem of Zen Bhuddism.

The ishime lacquered bowl is banded by scrolling reishi mushrooms in brown hiramakie below a border of tiny square inlays of aogai. The interior is decorated in fundame with two further reishi mushrooms framing the himotshi.

The wood plate is signed: Miwa Kiei with kao.

Bowl: Scratched ‘rat’s tooth’ signature: Zeshin
Width: 3.1 cm

This particular pose of the two eccentrics seems to reference a Momoyama period painting by Sesshu To-yo-, now in a private collection.  There are no other records of work signed Miwa Kiei and conjecture can only be made that he is either Miwa VI or VII.

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