Japan, late 19th century
Depicting Oniwakamaru wrestling with a giant carp, a knife in his mouth, standing on the fish’s tail. The netsuke is worked in variously colored lacquer and the boy’s robe is ornately detailed with various patterns, typical for this workshop which produced these enigmatic lacquered katabori netsuke in the latter half of the 19th century. Two himotoshi underneath the boy’s obi.
HEIGHT 4.9 cm
Condition: Good condition with minor typical wear to lacquer. A crack through the left hand.
Provenance: Old Viennese private collection assembled within the same family over three generations.
Oniwakamaru or ‘young devil child’ was the nickname given to the young warrior monk Musashibo Benkei (1155-1189) because of his enormous strength and violent nature. This netsuke shows the young boy attacking and slaying the giant red carp that swallowed his mother.
Compare to a lacquer netsuke of a boy from the same workshop, at Lempertz, Asian Art, 27 June 2020, Cologne, lot 317 (sold for 4,000 EUR). Another lacquer netsuke from the same workshop was sold at Bonhams, Netsuke from the Collection of Joseph and Elena Kurstin, 16 December 2022, New York, lot 17 (sold for 10,200 USD).
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