This is a very special piece of work in iron. The maker, Kano Natsuo, is one of, if not the, most celebrated of Japanese artists who worked in metal. He was the first professor of metal work at the Tokyo Art school and was appointed as an artist to the Imperial Court. He died in 1898.
This little treasure is less than 4cm across and is carved in iron with the little bird inlaid in gold. The bowl is lacquered zitan wood. There is an almost identical version held by the Boston Museum of Fine Art. The design shows a partial view of the head of the great Buddha at Kamakura. I still marvel at the gentleness of the modelling and the serenity that the face conveys...and all that in such a reduced space.
If you stop and consider that this is entirely carved and finished by hand I hope you can begin to get a sense of just how masterful these great artists really were. As is often the case with these miniature masterpieces, photographs present but a pale imitation of the real thing.