Birds Blog

Ravens in Art: Japanese Okimono

Made of steel, the Raven okimono is incredibly lifelike and possesses an animated countenance contrary to the material used for its construction.

This Raven okimono was made by Myōchin Munesuke in the 18th century during the Edo period.

In Japan, “okimono” is the name of a decorative object, or ornament. An okimono is typically placed in the tokonoma part of a home.

The toko is a place in a Japanese home where objets d’art are displayed.

DP279323
Okimono in the Form of a Raven. Myōchin Munesuke (Japanese, Edo period, 1688–1735). early 18th century. Japanese. Steel.

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The Raven Okimono

Made of steel, the Raven okimono is incredibly lifelike and possesses an animated countenance contrary to the material used for its construction.

We can glance at its inquisitive expression and determine that this frozen bird also possesses the level of intelligence found in live Ravens as well.

Based on these realistic qualities, the viewer is then able to appreciate the level of study and observation upon Ravens that must have clearly gone into the process of making this piece.

History

According to The Met, before being purchased in 1913, the Raven okimono came into the ownership of Dr. Edouard Mène, a well-known collector of Japanese ironwork.

A bulletin published by the Museum praises the piece’s detail, from its tilted head to gazing eyes to the individual veins of each feather as they glint against the dark steel in a way reminiscent to the dark feathers of a live Raven.

Ravens in Art

Centuries ago in Japan, Myōchin Munesuke sat and took note of each of the bird’s fluid and smooth features and managed to sculpt its likeness from a typically unyielding substance — steel.

To imagine the hours upon hours spent on such a piece in the separate spaces of the wild and the man-dominated metalworking arena is truly striking.

It is a definite example of the creator’s devotion to both their craft and their respect and appreciation for the coy corvid.

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Author: Orianna Green is an art major at Carnegie Mellon University. Her favorite birds are robins and nightjars.

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