Mask and Basket Seller

I am a merchant, elaborately carved from Indian elephant ivory. As you can see, I am a mask and basket seller. From the 12th Century to 1868 there existed a four-tiered class system of feudal Japan. The highest in this tier were the Samurai. Next were the farmers/peasants, after that the artisans, and at the bottom of the tier were the merchants. Of course, there were people above the system, such as the Emperor and Shogun, and people below the system as well. As a basket seller, I ranked in the fourth tier, the merchant level. Fortunately, I was created during the Meiji Period (1867-1912). With the end of the feudal system in 1868, there was an increase in trade, and I became more appreciated and needed, which elevated my status. I am signed with a red inlaid seal.

Mary Hulton Phillips, the founder of The Maridon Museum, discovered me in 1988 and selected me to join her collection. I was surprised to see a companion mask and basket merchant waiting for me there. We resided in Mrs. Phillips’ home until the opening of her museum in 2004. You will find both of us in the Rear Gallery Ivory Exhibit. We have come a long way from the fourth tier.