Japan, Meiji period (1868-1926), ca. 19th century
H. 10 ¼ in (26cm) x W. 9.1 in (23cm) x L. 9.1 in (23cm)
There are a lot of old tales in which the monkeys play the important roles in Japan. Also there are some religious believes. For example, the monkeys are believed a messenger of God of the Hie Shrine. On the other hand, it was believed that the monkey protects the horse, so the monkeys were kept in the stables in the Medieval Period. And that is why, probably, a monkey is a very popular motif in the Japanese art, especially the Japanese paintings and wooden carvings.
This monkey wears a sleeveless vest and a cap. By this disguise, it can be assumed that this object was made for offering to somebody to celebrate the 60th birthday. In Japan, people traditionally celebrate one’s 60th birthday, called Kanreki (還暦) and people offer a red vest and a red hood. Incidentally, the monkey is one of the signs of the zodiac in Chinese astrology which is used in Japan also. So probably the person of the birthday was born in the year of the Monkey. The keyaki (Zelkova serrata) wood’s patina is beautiful, and the carving is simple but elaborate. The expression is so lovely. A pure mingei object it is.