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1. A remarkably rare late 18th century netsuke whose subject might only be understood by the indigenous culture for whom it was made. This child represents the origin of Karako as a Chinese temple boy, complete with traditional hair style and apron cinched robe of the time. Our bias to rats as pets are largely due to the great plagues in the crowded slums of medieval Europe where the poor were left to live in squalor. These conditions did not evolve in Japan and certainly not in Buddhist temple compounds. First in the succession of the Junishi (Asian zodiac) the rat is considered a very intelligent creature, admired for its clever devises to get at stores of grain.The artist has skillfully carved a netsuke that portrays an endearing relationship. Inlaid eyes and hair knobs. Irregular himotoshi. Unsigned, Late 18th century. 

Height: 4.8 cm


2. A carved wood netsuke of Fukura Suzume (round and puffy sparrow). As this suzume is rendered wearing a winter hanten (a quilted haori) with an ajisai (hydrangea) textile pattern we can assume there is an anthropomorphic inference (most likely the legendary tale of Shita-kiri Suzume). Shita-kiri Suzume is a beloved Japanese tale of blessings for acts of loving kindness and the misery brought upon oneself for treachery and greed. Meiji period.   

Length: 3.8 cm



3. A netsuke of a joyful Fukurokuju, the Shinto God of Wisdom and Longevity. He stands beside his acolyte wearing priestly robes with his left hand upon a tama - the wish granting jewel. This choice of subject would have been meaningful to the wearer for its wish granting propensities. With lustrous patina. Signed Ikkosai.

Height: 5.2 cm


4. This fine 19th century Japanese metalwork kagamibuta alludes to the famous legend of “Tadamori & the Oil Thief”. We see an ancient gnarled pine and a torii gate with a figure of an aged priest with a tattered umbrella carrying a lantern. The legend has it that this figure in the night mists of the temple grounds had caused alarm and was believed to be a demon that breathed fire and had a fearful spiked head. The 12th century samurai hero Tadamori was dispatched to destroy the demon, but fortunately recognized the personage of the old priest before he could draw his sword.

Diameter: 4.4 cm



5. An 18th century ebony netsuke depicting the beloved family dog enjoying a good scratch. Carved with attention to detail of ribs with elements of bony structure and razor-fine hairwork. Characteristically rubbed smooth at the high points. Irregular himotoshi. Late 18th century.

Height: 3.8 cm


6. This Setsubun Oni is desperately seeking refuge in a wooden masu from the hot soybeans intended to drive him away during the annual New Year’s festivities. His well defined muscular body is contorted in his efforts to fit into such a small space. This composition is most tactile with the contrasting textures of this highly functional netsuke. Signed Masakazu.

Length: 3.3 cm


7. A Demé Uman netsuke mask representing Okina as it would have been seen in its ceremonial origins of village rites before it was adopted into the pantheon of the Noh Theater. Also engraved ‘Tenka-ichi’ (meaning ‘unique in this world’). Circa 1780.

Height: 4.8 cm


8. A dual function guri lacquer double gourd netsuke with a bronze hasp and threaded stopper intended to also function to carry powdered ink for a tsuitaté. Late 1700's.

Height: 5.7 cm


9. A kagamibuta depicting the legendary encounter of Yoko (Chin. Yang Hsiang) and the tiger, one of the 24 paragons of filial piety. Here the artist has brought legend to life as this young boy, fierce with the conviction of his love for his father, fearlessly wards off the advance of the tiger. By some accounts this act was startling enough for the tiger to retreat, in others Yoko sacrifices his life. This detailed married metalwork is some of the finest we've ever seen and the composition of the narrative on this contained surface is absolutely dynamic.

Diameter: 4.5 cm


10. A positively mad netsuke mask of the Kyogen Oji type. Such wild expression was only to be seen in the highly animated theatrics of the celebrated Kyogen folk plays that were so popular amongst the people of Meiji period Japan. Signed Mitsuyuki.

Height: 6.1 cm


11. An 18th century Noh mask netsuke depicting a manifestation of Beshimi. A striking countenance with boldly carved contours characteristic of this masterful school of mask makers. Signed Deme Uman.

Height: 4.4 cm


12. A boxwood seal-form netsuke of a cockerel resting on a war drum. When the cockerel comes to roost on the war drum, it is an indication that the war drum is not in use for its intended purpose, and over time this theme became a symbol of peace. The circumference of the wood drum is engraved with a natural grain pattern, a stylized tiger and dragon are carved on either end, and the brads are inlaid in umimatsu. Although seals are usually removed, this owner’s seal remains engraved at the base. 

Height: 7.7 cm



13. A remarkably well-detailed antique netsuke of a groom and horse standing in a wooden trough filled with swirls of water. The expression of the horse clearly indicates his pleasure at this bathing ritual his groom is giving with such care. Horses 'Kaito' were considered valiant animals and in Shintoism were considered messengers of the Gods.

Length: 4.4 m


14. A weary porter rests in a seated squat. His load is that of an outrageously expressive mask of Sojobo, the yamabushi mountain hermit and King of the Tengu, depicted here in full prominence with his outlandishly phallic nose. We sense by his grimace that Sojobo is not entirely pleased with the manner of his transport. The artist is a master of curvilinear composition from knitted brows, curved fingers and fabric folds that flow effortlessly. I enjoy that Ryukei is so uniquely bold in his carving style with attentive details of inlaid eyes and teeth, and finely woven raffia zoris.

Length: 6.9 cm

The traditional men's Kaku Obi (upon which this netsuke would rest to serve as toggle to a substantial sagemono) are wrapped three times compared to women's twice round. Kaku Obi are narrower and tied conservatively compared to women's Obi with their elaborate bows.



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