Attributed to Kokeisai Sansho (1871-1926), unsigned
Japan, Osaka, late 19th to early 20th century
The strikingly tall figure superbly carved as an amused Gama Sennin with his toad playfully clambering on his shoulder. The toad, with one arm under sennin’s neck and the other on top of his head, seems to be unwilling to extricate itself from his master’s shoulder. Gama is shown with his mouth agape in a humorous, wide-open grin, his face set with large eyes of inlaid bone with reddish horn pupils, as he holds one of the toad’s legs, in an attempt to pull it down, while the toad embraces his master’s head in impish resistance. The immortal is clothed in a loosely fitted robe with long draping sleeves, typical of hermits, the leaves inlaid with stained bone and horn. The amphibian’s skin is finely textured, and the eyes are inlaid in gilt with reddish horn pupils. Two very large and asymmetrical himotoshi ringed in green-stained bone to the back. The light wood, typically used by the Osaka master Kokeisai Sansho (1871-1926), finely polished with a smooth grain.
HEIGHT 14.8 cm
Condition: One foot with a repair and possibly minor repairs to inlays. Generally very good condition and presenting beautifully.
Provenance: Toledano, Arcachon, October 1988. Ex-collection Guy de Lasteyrie, acquired from the above. De Lasteyrie is a member of the Lasteyrie du Saillant family and is considered among the leading French collectors of netsuke.
This superb carving of Gama Sennin is remarkable not only due to its size but also due to its irresistible charm and character imbued with a healthy sense of humor. The use of various inlays against the pale, polished wood creates a very appealing color contrast. This is all very typical of the work of Kokeisai Sansho (1871-1926).
Compare a related wood netsuke of Gama Sennin from an Osaka artist, signed Tsuji, in the British Museum, accession number 1912,1012.4.
Compare a related wood netsuke of a warrior with a closely related expression and pose, at Christie’s, A Private Collection of Japanese Art, 20 October 2015, New York, lot 53 (sold for USD 37,500).
Additional Note: There is a strong possibility this netsuke is more likely carved by Minko or Hasegawa Ikko, both residents of Tsu. For a closely related example of a Daruma with similar expression and with similar inlays see Bonhams, The Jamese A. Rose Collection of Netsuke and Sagemono, 17 September 2012, New York, lot 2069 (sold for USD 10,000).
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