Archive for the ‘Vale of Glamorgan’ Category

A Japanese sculpture at Dyffryn

August 27, 2015
Detail of a bronze sculpture of a man riding an ox, possibly Sugawara no Michizane (845-903), possibly by Takamura Kōun (1852-1934), at Dyffryn gardens, NT 1682811. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Detail of a bronze sculpture of a man riding an ox, possibly Sugawara no Michizane (845-903), possibly by Takamura Kōun (1852-1934), at Dyffryn gardens, NT 1682811. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

As I was looking at images of Dyffryn Gardens while writing my previous post, I was reminded of the intriguing Japanese bronze sculpture situated in front of the house. It depicts a man dressed in traditional Japanese traveling costume sitting on the back of an ox, reading a book as he is carried along.

Back view of the sculpture of a man riding an ox at Dyffryn Gardens. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Back view of the sculpture of a man riding an ox at Dyffryn Gardens. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

A while ago I asked Menno Fitski, an expert on Japanese art and curator at the Rijksmuseum, who this figure might be. He suggested it could be Sugawara no Michizane (845-903), a Japanese scholar and courtier. When Michizane’s enemies managed to get him expelled from court a faithful ox carried him into exile. He was later worshiped as a patron of scholars and  deity of calligraphy.

Front view of the sculpture of a man riding an ox at Dyffryn Gardens. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Front view of the sculpture of a man riding an ox at Dyffryn Gardens. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Menno suggested the sculptor might be Takamura Kōun (1852-1934) or someone from his circle. Kōun worked to preserve traditional Japanese woodcarving skills during the turbulent Meiji period (1868-1912), when Japan was rapidly modernising and subject to western cultural influences. However, Kōun also made sculptures in bronze. Large-scale bronze figures from this period combined the western conventions of public sculpture with traditional Japanese subject matter.

This sculpture was donated to Dyffryn gardens by Grenville Morgan in 1951. Although its introduction post-dates the ownership of Dyffryn by the Cory family, it suits the Edwardian atmosphere of the garden, with its many Japanese trees and plants.

We would welcome comments either confirming that this sculptural group is by Kōun or suggesting another possible artist.