An early ivory netsuke of the poet Rihaku (In Chinese Li Bai) shown seated on a base leaning on a scholarly table. He is wearing a traditional Chinese cap and a flowing, well-carved Chinese robe. His facial features are crafted extraordinarily well indicating his happy mood, probably after drinking some wine – a popular subject of his poems. Beautiful deep-yellow and honey patina and excellent himotoshi through the under- and backside of the rectangular base.
This netsuke belongs to a group of early ivory netsuke set on bases (catalog nos. 1-4), though usually the details are not as refined as in the present example, making this carving exceptionally rare.
HEIGHT 4.3 cm
Condition: Very good age-related condition with expected age cracks and stunning patina.
Provenance: The Gabor Wilhelm Collection.
Literature comparison: Compare to Barry Davies, The Robert S. Huthart Collection of Non-Iwami Netsuke, No. 10. BARRY Davies dates this piece late 17th/early 18th century.
Li Bai (701-762) was a famous poet during the Tang-dynasty, often referred to as China’s golden age of poetry. In 724 AD he set out from his home region of Shu and began a life of roaming— visiting Daoist sites, meeting many scholars, and leaving behind hundreds of poems about his travels, his solitude, his friends, the moon, and especially the pleasures of drinking wine.