Attributed to Masatami, unsigned
Japan, Tokyo, second half of the 19th century, Meiji period (1868-1912)
Depicting tanuki no hara tsuzumi (belly drumming raccoon dog), the fur finely incised, the lustrous marine ivory beautifully stained, the spine expressively carved, the face with sharp fangs, upwards turned snout, double-inlaid eyes in mother-of-pearl and black horn, and a jovial expression – he is visibly delighted as he drums on his large and smooth belly, with his left front paw raised in a dynamic posture. Himotoshi to the underside and to the back.
HEIGHT 3.8 cm
Condition: Very good condition with only minor surface wear and a flaw to the material by the creature’s shoulder.
Provenance: Zacke, Fine Japanese Art, 4 June 2021, Vienna, lot 202. German private collection, acquired from the above.
The tanuki possesses magical powers and can change forms, sometimes into Buddhist monks; they are jovial, but also dangerous, as they have been known to suffocate hunters with their enormous scrotums. The act of drumming on the belly, according to legend, was used by tanuki to beguile travelers and hunters and to lead them astray. However, it has also been said that tanuki would get together just for fun, drumming on their bellies under the moonlight, perhaps even with some sake involved.
Compare a closely related ivory netsuke, signed Masatami, at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, object number B70Y1039.
Trade Certificate: The trade certificate for the sale of this lot within the EU has been granted (permit number AT 23-B-0363).
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