Ivory okimono of a half­-peeled banana

Japan, Meiji period, 1868 ­- 1912

Length: 9 inches, 23 cm

An ivory okimono, naturalistically carved to represent a half­-peeled banana. Where the skin is peeled away, the curved fruit reveals its creamy white flesh of soft, velvet texture. The skin is smooth and well polished and stained a pale yellow tone.


The term okimono in Japanese literally means “object for placement [on display]”. Hyper­-realistic ‘trompe­-l’oeil’ ivory carvings of fruit, in the form of tangerines and bananas were very popular in Japan during the Meiji period. A closely comparable ivory carving of a banana, dated to c.1900 and described as Chinese but probably made in Japan, is in the Kwan collection.[1]  Another similar ivory banana comparable in size and detail, also dated to c.1900 and made in Japan, is in the collection of the British Museum.[2]

  1. Kao, Mayching, ed., Chinese ivories from the Kwan Collection, Art Gallery of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, 1990, no. 158, pp. 312­3
  2. British Museum online collection archive, registration number: 1979,0412.1