Ɏ KAIGYOKUSAI MASATSUGU: A MASTERFUL AND IMPORTANT IVORY NETSUKE OF A RECUMBENT OX

By Kaigyokusai Masatsugu (1813-1892), signed Kaigyokusai 懐玉齋 with seal Masatsugu 正次
Japan, Osaka, second half of 19th century

The ox (ushi) with its head turned backwards, the resulting skin folds on the neck are masterfully worked. The bulky stature of the animal is executed with a superior sense of realism, note the ridged spine, subtly incised rib cage, the tail which points downwards and swings over to the side, and the individual muscles and bones. The eyes are inlaid in pure amber with dark horn pupils. The rope halter which is attached to the ox’s muzzle is very finely carved and extends into a rope which moves in sinuous lines over the body ending in a loop. The hairwork is slightly worn, revealing the beautifully gleaming, marbleized ivory underneath (Kaigyokusai only chose the best pieces of ivory for his carvings, this being pure white tokata ivory), however what remains of the hairwork is truly a spectacular site, especially when viewed under a magnifying glass – not a single stroke is misplaced, each minutely incised line complements the other perfectly, adding to the sublime color, gleam, and overall feel of the material. The netsuke is truly a joy to handle, much owed to the compact design of the netsuke, which is ideally shaped. The legs are neatly tucked underneath the body, again extremely well-carved, and the ‘natural himotoshi’ is underneath the right haunch which also houses the perfectly incised signature KAIGYOKUSAI and seal MASATSUGU, both within a polished reserve.

LENGTH 4.2 cm

Condition: Superb condition, with associated wear to inked details.
Provenance: Important Italian private collection, sold at Van Ham, Asian Art, 7 December 2017, Cologne, lot 2260 (sold for 64,500 EUR).

Auction comparison:
Compare to an ivory netsuke of an ox and a goat by Kaigokyusai Masatsugu, sold at Sotheby’s, The Katchen Collection of Netsuke, 8 November 2005, London, lot 31 (sold for 42,000 GBP, approximately 62,000 EUR at the time).

Literature comparison:
Kaigyokusai carved several of this type, however each different. The one in the Walters Art Museum, accession no. 71.961, depicts the ox in the classic, somewhat static posture. Nevertheless, it provides an excellent comparison to the color of the ivory, carving quality, and the yellowish underside. However, the present netsuke is probably best compared to the ox in the Baur collection, Marie-Therese Coullery and Martin S. Newstead (1977) The Baur Collection, pp. 368-369, C 1175. Note the two legs folded underneath the body like in the netsuke here on offer. Also compare to the one featured on the back cover of INCS 8/4, which is has been stained yellow (because the material was not perfect tokata ivory, as in our example).

Sold for €73,200

including Buyer's Premium


 

By Kaigyokusai Masatsugu (1813-1892), signed Kaigyokusai 懐玉齋 with seal Masatsugu 正次
Japan, Osaka, second half of 19th century

The ox (ushi) with its head turned backwards, the resulting skin folds on the neck are masterfully worked. The bulky stature of the animal is executed with a superior sense of realism, note the ridged spine, subtly incised rib cage, the tail which points downwards and swings over to the side, and the individual muscles and bones. The eyes are inlaid in pure amber with dark horn pupils. The rope halter which is attached to the ox’s muzzle is very finely carved and extends into a rope which moves in sinuous lines over the body ending in a loop. The hairwork is slightly worn, revealing the beautifully gleaming, marbleized ivory underneath (Kaigyokusai only chose the best pieces of ivory for his carvings, this being pure white tokata ivory), however what remains of the hairwork is truly a spectacular site, especially when viewed under a magnifying glass – not a single stroke is misplaced, each minutely incised line complements the other perfectly, adding to the sublime color, gleam, and overall feel of the material. The netsuke is truly a joy to handle, much owed to the compact design of the netsuke, which is ideally shaped. The legs are neatly tucked underneath the body, again extremely well-carved, and the ‘natural himotoshi’ is underneath the right haunch which also houses the perfectly incised signature KAIGYOKUSAI and seal MASATSUGU, both within a polished reserve.

LENGTH 4.2 cm

Condition: Superb condition, with associated wear to inked details.
Provenance: Important Italian private collection, sold at Van Ham, Asian Art, 7 December 2017, Cologne, lot 2260 (sold for 64,500 EUR).

Auction comparison:
Compare to an ivory netsuke of an ox and a goat by Kaigokyusai Masatsugu, sold at Sotheby’s, The Katchen Collection of Netsuke, 8 November 2005, London, lot 31 (sold for 42,000 GBP, approximately 62,000 EUR at the time).

Literature comparison:
Kaigyokusai carved several of this type, however each different. The one in the Walters Art Museum, accession no. 71.961, depicts the ox in the classic, somewhat static posture. Nevertheless, it provides an excellent comparison to the color of the ivory, carving quality, and the yellowish underside. However, the present netsuke is probably best compared to the ox in the Baur collection, Marie-Therese Coullery and Martin S. Newstead (1977) The Baur Collection, pp. 368-369, C 1175. Note the two legs folded underneath the body like in the netsuke here on offer. Also compare to the one featured on the back cover of INCS 8/4, which is has been stained yellow (because the material was not perfect tokata ivory, as in our example).

Zacke Live Online Bidding

Our new online bidding platform makes it easier than ever to bid in our auctions! When you bid through our website, you can take advantage of our premium buyer's terms without incurring any additional online bidding surcharges.

To bid live online, you'll need to create an online account. Once your account is created and your identity is verified, you can register to bid in an auction up to 12 hours before the auction begins. 

Create an Account

  

Intended Spend and Bid Limits

When you register to bid in an online auction, you will need to share your intended maximum spending budget for the auction. We will then review your intended spend and set a bid limit for you. Once you have pre-registered for a live online auction, you can see your intended spend and bid limit by going to 'Account Settings' and clicking on 'Live Bidding Registrations'. 

Your bid limit will be the maximum amount you can bid during the auction. Your bid limit is for the hammer price and is not affected by the buyer’s premium and VAT. For example, if you have a bid limit of €10,000 and place two winning bids for €3,000 and €2,000, then you will only be able to bid €5,000 for the rest of the auction. If you try to place a bid that is higher than €5,000, you will not be able to do so.

 

Online Absentee and Telephone Bids

You can now leave absentee and telephone bids on our website! 

Absentee Bidding

Once you've created an account and your identity is verified, you can leave your absentee bid directly on the lot page. We will contact you when your bids have been confirmed.

Telephone Bidding

Once you've created an account and your identity is verified, you can leave telephone bids online. We will contact you when your bids have been confirmed.

Telephone Bidding Form

 

Classic Absentee and Telephone Bidding Form

You can still submit absentee and telephone bids by email or fax if you prefer. Simply fill out the Absentee Bidding/Telephone bidding form and return it to us by email at office@zacke.at or by fax at +43 (1) 532 04 52 20.

Classic Absentee/Telephone Bidding Form

 

Third-Party Bidding

We partner with best-in-class third-party partners to make it easy for you to bid online in the channel of your choice. Please note that if you bid with one of our third-party online partners, then there will be a live bidding surcharge on top of your final purchase price. You can find all of our fees here. Here's a full list of our third-party partners:

  • Invaluable
  • LiveAuctioneers
  • lot-tissimo
  • the-saleroom
  • Auction FR
  • Epai Live
  • Lot-Art
  • Drouot
  • 51 Bid Live
  • ArtFox

Please note that we place different auctions on different platforms. For example, in general we only place Chinese art auctions on 51 Bid Live.

 

Bidding in Person

You must register to bid in person and will be assigned a paddle at the auction. Per local regulations, you will need to wear a FFP2 mask and socially distance while you are in the gallery. If you have any questions about this, please contact us at office@zacke.at or +43 (1) 532 04 52.