As part of our Japanese works of art collection we are delighted to offer this magnificent huge scale Meiji Period 1868-1912 bronze elephant and tiger group by the leading 19th century metalworker Sano Takachika. This monumental group has certainly retained the quality associated with this artist, so much so it was accepted as a long term exhibit at the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam. The artist has captured the often seen image of an Asian elephant being attacked and seemingly fending off a marauding troop of tigers, in this particular instance one tiger is pinned beneath the elephants foot as it rears up in an attempt to overthrow the others, the sheer scale of this group is something to behold and unlike anything we have encountered in a lifetime of handling Japanese art. The group stands upon its original hardwood stand that has been carefully carved on the face to safely locate this incredibly heavy bronze study, artist signed in a seal to the underside that translates to read, made in Yokohama great Japan by Sano Takachika. There seems little doubt that an okimono of this scale was destined for one of the major exhibitions around the turn of the century, possibly Paris 1900 , our research is still ongoing to trace the first 30 years of its life.
UPDATE : Further research has led us to a promotional catalogue from a retail outlet based in Yokohama, known as K.Kakuha , the images of their bronze elephant are virtually identical to ours. This interesting updated information suggests that this retailer was likely selling items for local artists such as Takachika.
A family file typed in Dutch that accompanies the group records the elephant in a 1927 black and white image in the offices of the owner Joseph Albertus Houtzager 1883-1961, how long the owner had the group prior to that image is unknown at this time, however it stayed in the same family for around 100 years until our recent acquisition in early 2023.
In 1934 Mr Houtzager loaned the group to the Royal Tropical Museum on a long term basis , see the archive black and white image in the main hall, upon his death in 1961 the group passed title to his daughter Dr Maria Elizabeth Houtzager 1907-2001 and her siblings, whilst remaining on museum display. It is interesting to note that his daughter Maria was a curator at the central museum of Utrecht prior to being promoted to director from 1951-1972.
In the 1980’s the family offered the giant beast for sale, firstly to the Tropenmuseum, who sadly could not accept the offer and secondly an invitation to sell at Christies was explored, unsurprisingly the auction could not agree values for estimate with the family members, as such in 1983 the elephant returned to the family ownership, presumably at one of the siblings homes until the passing of Dr Maria in Dec 2021, the notes suggest that Dr Maria affectionately refereed to the elephant as her “beastie” and it is therefore fair to assume she probably housed it in the period 1983-2021.
A few major examples of work by this artist are recorded in well known worldwide collections, two examples can be found in the Khalili collection, Meiji No Takara Treasures of Imperial Japan , metalwork volume II, plate 120 displays a hawk Koro on perch and plate 121 shows a very similar decorated pigeon Koro on stand, the volume also suggests a snake and eagle Koro on a tree trunk is recorded in the well known collection of Michael Tomkinson at plate 72 .
The artist Sano Takachika was a master of hammering, metal carving and chiseling and a recorded member of the Tokyo Chokokai ( Tokyo association of carvers and sculpters ) he is known to have exhibited at many of the expositions of the period including the Japan art society spring exhibition of 1894 where he exhibited gold and silver figures of a heron and a crow .
Condition report :
The group is in fantastic age related condition throughout.
Approximate Sizes :
Overall Length : 66 3/4″” 169.5 cm (48 1/2″ 123 cm the bronze )
Overall Height : 52 1/2″ 133.5 cm (43 1/2″ 110 cm the bronze )
Overall Depth : 35 1/2″ 90 cm ( inc tusks)
Weight : 185 kg Approx
Free UK delivery and a certificate of authenticity are included within the price of this item.
* Worldwide buyers please contact for a shipping quote prior to purchase *