Ben-Kei is a 12th century Japanese hero whose whole life is full of legends.
Son of a priest, he was an unruly child, which got him the nickname of "Oni-waka" (young devil). At 16 he became a member of the "yama-bushi" (belligerent monks) community on the mount Hi-Yeï.
He became extremely strong and tall (eight feet).
The Netsuke represents one of his most recognized feats : the theft of the Mi-i-dera bell.
The carver is San-Ko, who lived in the 18th century (mentioned page 277 of the Ueda Reikichi's Netsuke Handbook, adapted by R. Buschell, Tokyo 1961 - see pictures) and was "particularly good at portraying Ben-Kei".
He is depicted here, bending under the weight of the bell, with an intense expression of exertion on his face, wearing the monks skullcap, his curved sword on his left, holding the stick carrying the bell in his left hand.The extremity of the stick shows a small drilled hole where probably used to be an element counterweighing the bell. In numerous other representations, this element is a paper lantern.
The bell is finely carved, with elegant decorations, and the canons are made by two opposite heads that resemble dragon heads, maybe as a reminder of the Dragon king (Ryû-jin) once owner of the bell..
Late 18th century
Very good condition for its age.
Probably missing the counterweight at the extremity of the holding stick.
Please check pictures for global condition
From French private collection acquired at Paris, Piasa, March 9th 2005 auction, item 130
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- Nombre total d’articles
- Période Edo (1600–1868)
- Région/ Pays d’origine
- Titre de l’œuvre d’art
- BEN-KEI CARRYING ON HIS BACK THE BELL OF MI-I-DERA - Signature : San-Ko
- Très bon état, voir la description
- 3.4×1.6×3 cm