Japan, mid-19th century, Edo period (1615-1868)
The two-part wood manju netsuke decorated in the front with two scampering rats in front of a kagami-mochi (New Year’s rice cake) on a pierced sanbo (stand) decorated with finely stippled festive leaves. The two mochi cakes are inlaid in ivory and show fine cracks. One rat is carved in high relief, the other in shishiaibori (sunken relief), the fur is neatly incised, and the eyes are inlaid in dark horn. The reverse is finely carved in shishiaibori with a bundle of straw in the shape of a daikon (radish), another favorite food of the rat. The central himotoshi rimmed in ivory.
DIAMETER 3.7 cm
Condition: Excellent condition.
Provenance: Old Viennese private collection assembled within the same family over three generations.
The kagami-mochi tradition stems from the Muromachi period (1336–1573) and is used to welcome the New Year. It is said that this mochi contains the “toshikami” — a new year’s spirit that will visit you to bring good luck into the new year. The netsuke probably served as an emblem to welcome a new year of the rat.
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