Japanese - Phoenix Mouth Organ (Ho Sho), before 1850

Japanese

Phoenix Mouth Organ (Ho Sho), before 1850

Lacquered bamboo and wood, with gold decoration, silver , 39 cm (15 3/8 in.)

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Object details

Accession number

U1n2

Primary Creator

Japanese

Full title

Phoenix Mouth Organ (Ho Sho)

Creation Date

before 1850

Object Case

Franz Liszt Case

Provenance

Possibly in the collection of the Okubo family at Odawara Castle near Hakone, Japan, after 1686.
Possibly in the collection of a Katsuyama Shigeru, June 1849.
Gift from Joseph B. Millet, Boston to Isabella Stewart Gardner, probably before 1908.

Marks

Inscribed in lacquer (on box, outside cover): ho sho [phoenix mouth organ]
Inscribed in lacquer (on box, bottom): Mr. Katsuyama Shigeru
Inscribed in ink (on box, inside cover): Mr. Katsuyama Shigeru
Inscribed in ink (on box, inside cover): Kaei 2, 5th month [June 1849]

Dimensions

39 cm (15 3/8 in.)

Display Media

Lacquered bamboo and wood, with gold decoration, silver

Web Commentary


The sho is a mouth organ. Like a bagpipe, it produces sound through a chamber that a player keeps filled with air by blowing into a mouthpiece.  It is a Japanese adaptation of the Chinese sheng, brought to Japan’s imperial court during the Nara period (710 - 794 AD).  Seventeen lacquered bamboo pipes extend from the wind box, to which a silver mouthpiece is also attached.  The maker of this instrument chose to decorate the wind box with a phoenix, likely because the pipes were thought to resemble the wings of the mythic bird.  Isabella was fond of the phoenix, an emblem of immortality, and one even decorates the crest of the museum designed by artist Sarah Wyman Whitman. 





Gardner displayed this mouth organ along with other musical souvenirs in the Franz Liszt Case in the Yellow Room.

Permanent Gallery Location

Yellow Room

Bibliography

Gilbert Wendel Longstreet and Morris Carter. General Catalogue (Boston, 1935), p. 17.
Yasuko Horioka et al. Oriental and Islamic Art: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1975), pp. 94-95, no. 42, ill.
Alan Chong and Noriko Murai. Journeys East: Isabella Stewart Gardner and Asia. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 2009), pp. 415 fig. 14, 418 n. 8, 9.

Rights and reproductions

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Commentary


The sho is a mouth organ. Like a bagpipe, it produces sound through a chamber that a player keeps filled with air by blowing into a mouthpiece.  It is a Japanese adaptation of the Chinese sheng, brought to Japan’s imperial court during the Nara period (710 - 794 AD).  Seventeen lacquered bamboo pipes extend from the wind box, to which a silver mouthpiece is also attached.  The maker of this instrument chose to decorate the wind box with a phoenix, likely because the pipes were thought to resemble the wings of the mythic bird.  Isabella was fond of the phoenix, an emblem of immortality, and one even decorates the crest of the museum designed by artist Sarah Wyman Whitman. 





Gardner displayed this mouth organ along with other musical souvenirs in the Franz Liszt Case in the Yellow Room.