Scroll on paper (7140 x 275 mm.), entitled at beginning (in trans.): “The Process of Refining Metals from the Mine,” containing a series of illus. by the prominent artist Suian Hirafuku showing all the steps in processing ore to produce copper from the Ani-kozan mine in northern Japan. ANI-KOZAN COPPER MINE SMELTING.
Scroll on paper (7140 x 275 mm.), entitled at beginning (in trans.): “The Process of Refining Metals from the Mine,” containing a series of illus. by the prominent artist Suian Hirafuku showing all the steps in processing ore to produce copper from the Ani-kozan mine in northern Japan.
Scroll on paper (7140 x 275 mm.), entitled at beginning (in trans.): “The Process of Refining Metals from the Mine,” containing a series of illus. by the prominent artist Suian Hirafuku showing all the steps in processing ore to produce copper from the Ani-kozan mine in northern Japan.
Scroll on paper (7140 x 275 mm.), entitled at beginning (in trans.): “The Process of Refining Metals from the Mine,” containing a series of illus. by the prominent artist Suian Hirafuku showing all the steps in processing ore to produce copper from the Ani-kozan mine in northern Japan.
Scroll on paper (7140 x 275 mm.), entitled at beginning (in trans.): “The Process of Refining Metals from the Mine,” containing a series of illus. by the prominent artist Suian Hirafuku showing all the steps in processing ore to produce copper from the Ani-kozan mine in northern Japan.
Scroll on paper (7140 x 275 mm.), entitled at beginning (in trans.): “The Process of Refining Metals from the Mine,” containing a series of illus. by the prominent artist Suian Hirafuku showing all the steps in processing ore to produce copper from the Ani-kozan mine in northern Japan.
Scroll on paper (7140 x 275 mm.), entitled at beginning (in trans.): “The Process of Refining Metals from the Mine,” containing a series of illus. by the prominent artist Suian Hirafuku showing all the steps in processing ore to produce copper from the Ani-kozan mine in northern Japan.

Scroll on paper (7140 x 275 mm.), entitled at beginning (in trans.): “The Process of Refining Metals from the Mine,” containing a series of illus. by the prominent artist Suian Hirafuku showing all the steps in processing ore to produce copper from the Ani-kozan mine in northern Japan.

[Japan: early Meiji, ca. 1875].

An unusually finely illustrated scroll on copper refining, illustrated by Suian Hirafuku.

The Ani-kozan silver and copper mine in Akita prefecture has been in operation since the late 16th century. Silver was extracted in the early years. In 1672, veins of copper ore were discovered there, and by 1716 it became the largest producer of copper in Japan. The copper was ultimately shipped to Nagasaki for export by the Dutch East India Company to European and Asian markets. By the late 1670s, Japan had become the largest copper producing and exporting country in the world (replacing Sweden and replaced by China in the 1740s). Copper mining, refining, and exporting were the early primary businesses of what became the Sumitomo Corporation.

Our scroll depicts the hai-fuki-doko process to gain copper by cupellation. The scroll begins at the mouth of the mine. We then see a group of men and women breaking up the ore using hammers. The ore is then carried on workers’ backs to the next station, where the ore is weighed and recorded by government officers at an office. Then a new set of workers is given the broken-up ore for further processing and washing. We next see the ore carried again to be melted in furnaces. The then-smelted product is further processed in rather dramatic scenes in front of large furnaces. The refined product is now cooled in large pools of water. Workers then scrape off the ash. Workers now transport the copper to be weighed at another government office; it is then loaded onto oxen to be taken to the village of Mizunashimura on the Ani River, where it will be transported by boat to the famous Kagoyama smelting facility for further refining using the nanban-fuki process to remove the silver.

Suian Hirafuku (1844-90), a native of Akita prefecture and a disciple of Bunkai Takemura, was a well-known artist famed for his paintings of animals in traditional Japanese style (see Benezit Dictionary of Artists). This scroll, which is uncommonly well-drawn compared to other Japanese mining scrolls (normally, the human figures have a certain cartoonish quality; here, they are very realistic), has been exhibited first in 1970 at the Kakunodate-cho local government office exhibition hall and twice at what is today known as the Hirafuku Memorial Museum, first in 1979 and again in 1981. The scroll is included in the 1983 catalogue raisonné of Hirafuku — Hirafuku Suian gashu — published in Tokyo by Dainipponkaiga.

In very fine condition. The scroll has gold endpapers at the beginning and a porcelain jiku. Preserved in a wooden box, which has written on the top “Ani-kozan kagyo no zu. Suian hitsu” [“Ani-kozan smelting process illustrated. Painted by Suian”].

Price: $12,500.00

Item ID: 6791