By Ho Rakumin (1804-1877), signed Ho Hogen 鴇 法眼 with kakihan
Japan, Edo/Tokyo, second half of 19th century
Skillfully carved as a young man, the pierced mouth opened in a charming smile revealing rows of teeth, the narrowed eyes with recessed pupils, the neatly incised eyebrows and parted hair as well as the thin lips lacquered red. The reverse with a himotoshi bar below the signature Ho Hogen with a kakihan. The artist is Ho Rakumin, for further examples bearing this signature see MCI p. 160.
HEIGHT 4.1 cm
Condition: Very good condition with minor wear.
Provenance: Ex-collection John and Helen Mang. Quinn’s Auction Galleries, The Mang Collection of Japanese Netsuke, 7 December 2012, Falls Church, Virginia, USA, lot 119. European collection P. Jacquesson, acquired from the above.
Shojo is used exclusively for the play Shojo (The Dancing Orangutan). Despite the name, the mask is that of a smiling youth, certainly not an ape at all. The distinguishing feature of Shojo is his overall reddish color, the color which symbolizes the drunkard. Shojo’s hair is painted downward on his forehead in thin separated strands or bangs. For his dance the actor always wears a wig of long red hair with the Shojo mask. The dance symbolizes a drunken orangutan. Some Noh schools use a group of seven dancers all wearing Shojo masks to represent the orangutan.
Ho Rakumin (1804-1877) was born in Tsuchiura in Hitachi Province (now Ibaraki Prefecture). He received the honorary title Hogen and was, together with Hojitsu, one of the best netsuke carvers in Tokyo.
Compare a related wood netsuke, also with red hair, by Keizan, illustrated in Joly, Henri L. (1966) The W. L. Behrens Collection, Part 1, Netsuke, pl. IV, no. 186, and in Meinertzhagen, Frederick / Lazarnick, George (1986) MCI, Part A, p. 321.
A polychrome wood mask of Shojo, dated to the Muromachi period, 15th-16th century, is in the Tokyo National Museum, collection reference no. C-1535.
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