By Mochizuki Hanzan (1743-1790), signed Ritsuo 笠翁 and kakihan
Japan, 18th century, Edo period (1615-1868)
The remarkable two-case inro of box shape, acting as a trompe-l’œil optical illusion, with a ‘hinged lid’ opening to reveal several yokai creatures, inlaid in stained horn, antler, amber, ceramic, and various metals. A rokurokubi-esque snail creature with a single cycloptic eye is seen to the very left, poking its long neck through a hole in the box, next to a praying mantis with gilt eyes, and two anthropomorphic frog-creatures to the right. The ground is lacquered in an attractive reddish-brown, simulating a basketweave design, the front decorated with a gold sparrow crest, a metal-inlaid snail slithering through teared holes to either side of the inro and further with carved red lacquer flames emerging from within throughout the composition. A wasp and a butterfly are visible within the opening to the sides of the inro. With realistically modeled metal fittings posing as the hinges and closing mechanism of the box. Signed underneath in gold lacquer RITSUO with a red-lacquered kakihan, identifying the artist as Mochizuki Hanzan (Haritsu II, 1743-1790). The interior of dense nashiji with gold fundame rims.
With an en suite bone ojime depicting a stylized sparrow and a beautifully matching, thick manju netsuke carved from walrus tusk and depicting a sparrow above bamboo, executed in sumi-stained kebori, signed MITSUHIRO (Ohara Mitsuhiro, 1810-1875) and with the artist’s kakihan.
HEIGHT 6.6 cm, LENGTH 7 cm
DIAMETER (the netsuke) 4.5 cm
Condition: Very good condition. Only minor wear and rubbing to lacquer, some typical minuscule losses along the edges, some light surface scratches to the underside.
Mochizuki Hanzan, thought to have lived from 1743 to 1790, called himself Haritsu II and was a close follower of Ogawa Haritsu (1663-1747) though he was neither his son nor his pupil. The kakihan (artist’s cursive monogram) on the present inro is a close match to a kakihan seen on an inro bearing his signature, the signature illustrated in Wrangham, E. A. (1995) The Index of Inro Artists, p. 67.
The inro depicts the famous treasure box from the Tongue-Cut Sparrow (Shitakiri Suzume), which was opened by the story’s culprit, Arababa, and contains a host of supernatural bakemono and yokai. The manju netsuke and ojime are matching as well, both depicting sparrows.
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