Carp in gilt-bronze mount (one of a pair)
Japan exported figures of humans and animals early on in its trade with Europe, sending crates as early as 1659 to the Dutch market. Pairs of carp made in the seventeenth century survive in a variety of versions, some of which depict the story of Benkei, a 12th-century tale of a boy with supernatural strength who fought a giant carp. This pair probably represents a later Imari porcelain type from the early to mid-eighteenth century. The sensual, curling form of these carp would have been a topic of fascination for Rococo artists. The French artist Gabriel de Saint Aubin, who was an avid attendee at the great art sales of eighteenth-century Paris, depicted a pair of Japanese carp remarkably similar to this pair in his copy of the 1768 Gagnat sale catalog, which described the items in lot 22 as “Deux Carpes de porcelaine du Japon, sur leurs rochers vernissés en partie.”
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