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The crane between reality, art and legend

Dear friends, we dedicate the first of our art stories to what is considered one of the most representative animals of Japan. Depicted by artists of all ages, it is an animal that in nature stands out for its refined elegance. With a harmonious appearance and possessing an innate class, Gentlemen, we present the Crane.

Before we even show you how the artists of the Rising Sun have paid homage to this symbolic animal, we will immerse ourselves in the world of legends. We will discover together the stories and symbolism behind this important figure of Japanese folklore. 

A journey between legend and reality

In this article we do not want to talk only about art and the emotions related to the purchase of a work of art. In the our last article We have dealt comprehensively with this issue. The goal of this new appointment is another. We want to tell you more about Japan through its stories. We would like to take you with us on a mystical journey to discover the crane and the legends related to it. 

There are about 15 species of cranes in the world. The characteristic that unites them all is the slender physicality that gives this animal an elegant and refined appearance. It is a migratory bird with rather rooted habits.

The Japanese, or Manchurian, species is perhaps the best known. The plumage of its body is white, while that of the neck and tail is black. On the head has a characteristic tuft of red feathers. Symbol of beauty and elegance, its features and colors inspire geishas for their way of making up their face. 

There would be many things to tell about the nature of this animal. The most interesting, however, concern the stories and symbolism linked to it. So let’s immerse ourselves in the legend and let ourselves be carried away by the magic of this mystical creature that is the crane.

Yokoyama Taikan (1868-1958). Sold by Christie’s New York on March 20, 2013 for USD 267,750.00

Loyalty, luck and longevity

As we have said, for the Japanese there are many spiritual properties that are attributed to the crane. And as many legends that see her as the protagonist. The crane mainly represents the fortune, for this reason it is a good omen to give an object that shows his figure. It is also a gift suitable for young married couples because, due to its monogamous habits, the crane represents the fidelity. This is not the only connection that this animal has with couple love. In fact, it is often represented in works of art in the act of dancing. It is precisely the “
dance of love
“, fascinating ritual in which two specimens “perform” during the courtship phase. 

The dance of love
The dance of love

Going deeper and deeper into the legend, we discover how much this animal represents for the Japanese people. The best known folk tale is the one that combines the crane with a Japanese artistic skill known throughout the world. These are origami, the ancient art of creating detailed shapes by folding paper. TheOrizuru (ori – “bent” and tsuru – “crane”) is in fact the most classic form of all Japanese origami. The realization of an orizuru is usually linked to the intimate request to see one’s desires accepted. We mostly talk about desires for healing from diseases and in general related to health. It is said that  the dream of living long and healthy can be fulfilled by folding a thousand paper cranes.

“The bird of happiness” in art

An animal so loved and rich in meaning could not fail to be the object of artistic representation. Defined by the Japanese “bird of happiness“, the crane is a conspicuous part of the artistic production of the Rising Sun. There are countless masters of art of every age who have portrayed her paying homage to her.

The classical interpretations see her portrayed mainly in pairs or in groups, very rarely individually. There is an element that is frequently portrayed together with cranes and it is the pine tree. The motivation is, once again, linked to a symbolism. In fact, both represent

A fine example of artistic representation of the two elements is our pure silver vase signed Eihō 英鳳. Of exceptional size, this vase shows the effigy of two pairs of Manchurian cranes. The four birds are depicted cantilevered in the act of flying over a pine forest with natural gracefulness and elegance. The latter is engraved and finely chiseled. To enhance the scene more, the black enamel decorations along the feathers of the tails and the golden touch of the cranes’ eyes.

This vase is not the only work of art that depicts this beautiful animal in our gallery. We show you a selection.

Our journey to discover one of the symbols of Japan and its art ends here. But we leave you with the hope of having made you experience some magic and the promise to meet again here for new, exciting art stories.