"A rare Japanese bamboo carving of a "foreigner", 9" H. probably Edo, 18th c., finely detailed and carved in high relief.
In the early part of the Edo period, in Japan (from c. 1623-1651), in order to consolidate the government, a policy of isolation was adopted. The Japanese people were shut in, and all the foreigners were expelled. The only foreigners allowed to remain were the Dutch and Chinese, and only at Deshima in Nagasaki harbor. By the end of the 1740s many foreign ships docked in Nagasaki harbor and the Japanese were eager to see anything connected with the exotic foreigners. Amongst the forms of decorative arts in which foreigners were depicted are okimono, painted porcelains and ukiyo-e.
Bamboo (Bambusa arundinacea) is the most difficult wood to carve. It is as hard as horn although it is hollow and segmented. It is lustrous and it ranges in hue from lemon yellow to black, with warm tones in cherry red, tortoise-shell, mahogany, as well as variegated hues. Bamboo represents longevity because it flourishes throughout the winter. It is highly prized." - Bernie McManus, Appraiser, Woodbury House, Connecticut, 10/23/1999