A carved ivory and hardwood okimono figure of Hotei, signed: Katsumitsu
Meiji period 1868-1912 AD, Japan
Height: 17cm, 6.69 inches
The standing figure is carved wearing two long robes, the outer robe of very dark brown hardwood textured with fine stipple work surface, and an engraved diamond boarder, tied low at the waste with an ivory sash. The inner robe is in ivory engraved with a diaper pattern; both garments are voluminous and loose fitting fully open at the chest revealing the figures enormous stomach realistically captured down to the fine hair work to chest and belly. Hotei looks up laughing with open mouth and wrinkled half closed eyes the pupils inlaid with wood, his head fully shaved, and his face fat and bloated with fleshy ear lobes and several chins. He holds a vertical scroll in his right hand and a cloth bag rests on the ground to his left side surmounted by a double ruyi branch, and held in his hand above a large knot. The bag looks to be full, finely observed with stitching and patches, the underside worked to the same quality of finish and further revealing the figures woven sandals between which is the artists signature carved onto a rectangular wood plaque, the calligraphy in red.
Budai or Pu-Tai (Chinese: 布袋; pinyin: Bùdài), or Hotei in Japanese, is a Chinese folkloric deity. His name means “Cloth Sack,” and comes from the bag that he is conventionally depicted as carrying. He is usually identified with or seen as an incarnation of Maitreya, the future Buddha, so much so that the Budai image is one of the main forms in which Maitreya is depicted in East Asia. He is almost always shown smiling or laughing, hence his nickname in Chinese, the Laughing Buddha (Chinese: 笑佛).