Bronze mirror decorated with the figure of a boatman


British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

During the Edo period, some bronze mirrors were made with handles, and without the usual central boss. This allowed a much greater freedom of composition in the design. This mirror depicts a man punting a log by water. Such designs showing people at work were particularly popular among richer townsmen from the late seventeenth century.This unusually large handled mirror is inscribed Tenka-Ichi ('First under Heaven'). Leading mirror-makers were often much revered, since the mirror, together with the sword and the jewel were emblems of Imperial power. From the late sixteenth century an outstanding craftsman could be elected by his guild as Tenka-Ichi. This practice was officially stopped in 1682, but the title was still misused by inferior craftsmen and continues to appear throughout the Edo period.

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  • Title: Bronze mirror decorated with the figure of a boatman
  • Date Created: 1600/1699
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 32.40cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Subject: boat/ship; nationality/peoples
  • Registration number: 1944,0401.3
  • Production place: Made in Japan
  • Period/culture: Edo Period
  • Material: bronze
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Hildburgh, Walter Leo