Kirsten's Corner

Japanese Match Safe with Mice and Cat


This Japanese match safe takes the shape of a gourd. Two little mice have chewed their way into the gourd and made it their home—but a pet cat spies on them from the outside. The details of this match safe are what make it so adorable. The mice are nibbling on their dinner; the cat wears a cute ribbon; and the gourd has a knotted, lifelike texture and whimsical leaves and vines. There is a playful tone and sense of humor to this piece that makes it charming and one of a kind. 

Circa the 1880’s or 1890’s, this match safe was made at a time when Japan was shifting from a warring society to a time of peace. Metalsmiths who once made armor and weapons for samurai needed to find new ways to use their skills. Around the same time, Western colonialism was making a major impact on Japan, and trade with the West was becoming prominent. As a new source of income, metalsmiths began making art and decorative objects—like this beautiful match safe—which became highly sought after in the West for their incredible craftsmanship. This eventually led to the Aesthetic movement of the Victorian era. 

The match safe has a beautiful patina that highlights the details of the scene, and the top of the gourd opens and closes as a lid. It measures as 1 1/4” x 2 1/4” x 1/2”. It weighs 14.73 grams. 

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