By Ryukosai Jugyoku, signed Jugyoku 寿玉
Japan, Edo (Tokyo), mid-19th century, Edo period (1615-1868)
A humorous wood netsuke of a kappa holding a green-stained stag antler cucumber in both hands, as if playing the biwa, the eyes and fangs inlaid in bone. The details are very finely carved. Himotoshi through the carapace in the back and signed underneath the right leg JUGYOKU.
HEIGHT 3.3 cm
Condition: Very good condition. The two arms are carved separately to hold the cucumber in place.
Provenance: US private collection.
Jugyoku was particularly skilled in combining various materials, the kappa holding a green-stained cucumber being one of his favored subjects. The present netsuke depicts this kappa in a particularly amusing and rather unique manner, holding his cucumber like an instrument.
According to folklore there are two ways to escape a kappa-encounter unharmed. One is to feed it with a cucumber, which is the kappa’s favorite food and the other is to bow, as kappa are exceedingly polite creatures and find it difficult to resist returning a bow. This is a problem for the kappa as the cavity on top of their head retains water, and if damaged or its liquid is lost, the kappa is severely weakened.
A closely related wood netsuke by Gyokusai was sold at Zacke, Asian Art Discoveries, 27 January 2020, Vienna, lot 592 (sold for 5,688 EUR).
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