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1. An antique Japanese netsuke by the renowned artist Hogen Rantei depicting two piebald rabbits huddled together, their warm soft bodies seeming to meld.  The rabbit is of a rather magical, mystical status in old Japan and is long a symbol of good luck and abundance.  This netsuke is most tactile with a characteristic luster to the high points from more than a century and a half of handheld appreciation.  Piebald markings inset with colored lacquers.  Signed Hogen Rantei.  Circa 1850.

Hogen Rantei was an artist commissioned by the patron prince of Ninnaji temple and was granted the honorific title of Hogen, meaning master carver.

Length: 4.1 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. An unsigned late 18th century netsuke of a Shishi with a most expressive face and toothy broad mouthed grin. He is seated on his rear haunches, his body turned to the left with left paw lifted, appearing lifelike and ready to engage in playful antics. Eyes inlaid and a lustrous patina with characteristic wear to the high points. 

Height: 4.5 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. An 18th century satirical study of "who has who" where hunter holds only the tale of a wily monkey with a broad faced grin. This clever monkey is enjoying harassing his would-be adversary, his strong simian hands and feet well planted and pulling on the hunter's woven hat. Rich patina with natural himotoshi.

Height: 5.2 cm

 

           
           

13. A rather spirited Shojo with broad mouthed grin is seated holding an empty saké bowl, the contents of which we presume he’s imbibed. The artist has etched details of cranes and tortoise to decorate the bowl and finely engraved his generous locks of hair, which form the natural himotoshi. Marine ivory. Signed Shosai.

Length: 3.8 cm

 

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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