Gourd-shaped Karamono Flower Basket by Tanabe Chikuunsai II 

Tanabe Chikuunsai II / 二代田辺竹雲斎 
Gourd-shaped Karamono Flower Basket


57 x 18 x 18 cm

22.5 x 7 x 7 in

Original box signed and sealed by Chikuunsai II

The gourd is among the most ancient and widespread plants in the human world. People have brought it into nearly every territory they have inhabited. If gourds are not the earliest natural vessel known to humankind, they are certainly among the most varied and beautiful. In Japan, the gourd may be one of the earliest domesticates and has remained a central artistic motif.


Tanabe Chikuunsai II made two interpretations of the double gourd. His later version, woven in open hexagonal weave, is playful, striklingly light, and modern. This earlier, rarer and more labor-intensive version is a much more substantial endeavor. With its ornate karamono form, its boldly stylized double-handle, rich color and full body, it has a formality and elegance, and yet it remains inviting, seeming to call out for companions, for flowers. 


Like the baskets showing on this site entitled Mountain Road and Many Flowers, this basket was made at the Kaifu-nan-so (Kaifu South Studio), original studio of Chikuunsai I. On his death in 1937, Chikuunsai I's artist name (translated as Bamboo Cloud) was inherited by his eldest son, Tanabe Toshio, then only 27 years old. Chikuunsai II remained at this studio in Sakai City until 1944, when the war made it impossible to continue working and living in that area of southern Osaka. After the war he would return to work, and subsequently manage a studio of several apprentices at a time. Those early years, though, were full of creative potential for the young artist, and the baskets dating to that period are inevitably filled with energy and concentration.


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