This is an exceptionally rare instance of a Japanese bronze signed and inscribed to the effect that it was copied from an earlier Chinese original. The only two other recorded examples, discussed by the great metalwork historian Katori Hozuma in an article published in 1924,1 are also signed by Watanabe Omi (1646-), a bronzecaster based in the northern city of Hirosaki and known from other inscriptions to have been active until 1693, making the present Lot his latest known piece. Although the Chinese original known as Asaoka has not been traced, it would probably have dated from the 12th to the 14th century; for examples of such bronzes, which were exceedingly popular in Japan during the Muromachi and Edo periods, see Rose Kerr, Later Chinese Bronzes (London, 1990), plates 34-38.
1 Katori Hozuma, 'Sakka Watanabe Omi saku no ushi no suiteki [An ox-shaped water-dropper in bronze by Watanabe Omi]' in ibid., Kinkoshidan [Studies in the history of metalwork] (Tokyo, 1941), pp. 470-4
2 Joe Earle, Flower Bronzes of Japan (London, 1995), pp. 42-3