Published: ‘The Netsuke Handbook’ by Uede Reikichi adapted by Raymond Bushell, Tokyo, 1979, no. 39
This piece shows a multi-coiled snake, forming a knot, very precisely and realistically rendered details – almost frightening with its mouth wide open, teeth, flickering tongue and the poor frog (kaeru) crushed by its body. The depiction is an allusion to the sansukumi motif, meaning ‘mutual control’. The snake will consume the frog, however there is a catch – the frog has already eaten a poisonous snail, so too the snake must perish. Signed in an oval, smooth reserve MASATSUGU. An early work by the artist, who arguably became the greatest netsuke carver of all time.
HEIGHT 2.2 CM
Updated condition: The section of the tail is most likely not restored but original by the artist, as there are two plugged nerve channels, which would be very unusual for a restoration.
Provenance: Ex Raymond Bushell collection, acquired from Sachi Wagner who had previously acquired it at Zacke, then Austrian private collection
Literature: Another similar example is shown in ‘Masterpieces of Netsuke Art’, Bernard Hurtig, New York, 1973, page 98, no. 278