Published: Meinertzhagen, Frederick / Lazarnick, George (1986) MCI, Part A, p. 197.
An excellent study of a very rare subject from the 18th century master Hoshin, one of the few names mentioned in the Soken Kisho of 1781, the first meaningful publication on netsuke. Depicted is a seated Chinese sage smiling with his head slightly lowered, one hand resting on his raised knee, and with a finely carved coiled snake next to him, leaning on his lap. The snake’s serpentine body extends all the way behind his back, and its eyes are inlaid in dark horn. The robe of the sage is engraved with scrolling flowers, very much in the manner of 18th century Yoshinaga. Excellent patina, the underside with good himotoshi next to the signature HOSHIN 奉真 within an oval reserve.
HEIGHT 4.1 cm, LENGTH 4.5 cm
Condition: Very good condition with age-appropriate wear.
Provenance: British collection, sold at Bonhams, Fine Japanese Art, 17 May 2018, London, lot 78.
Meinertzhagen notes that Hoshin’s work shows affinities with the school of Yoshinaga/Yoshitomo, which is particularly evident in this work. His opinion, however, that this work is probably ‘a copy of the master’s work from the first of half 19th century’ is thoroughly unjustified, as this piece is clearly from the second half of the 18th century and most likely an authentic work by the Soken Kisho master.
Literature comparison: Compare to an ivory netsuke of a rat catcher executed in similar style in Coullery, Marie-Thérèse / Newstead, Martin S. (1977) The Baur Collection, p. 220f., no. C591.