Antique Ivory Netsuke
Selling Permit to Hell
Netsuke Signature: unsigned, early
2.4 in.(6cm), W 1in.(2.5cm), D 1 in.(2.5cm)
not included wood base -
Condition: Very Good!
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humorously conceptualized oni who was known to be the servant of Emma-O, the King
of Hell. True to its legend, the stocky little devil is depicted hovering forward
with imposing broad shoulders, muscular arms with visible veins, two pronounced
horns on a large head. An expressive, well-carved face shows two fangs in a serious
grin. This is a powerful but not so menacing appearance; well suited for a demon
whose station in hell is to collect taxes from passers; as indicated in the sack
of money held against his chest, and in the hand bag which inscribed the kanji
character "pass", or "passport".
netsuke is rendered with restraint and latent strength. For such early work, the
posture of the oni is elegant and sophisticated. Since there is an absence of
signature on the netsuke, the dating of this carving falls on attributions. The
oni is comparable in style to early Kyoto and Tokyo school designs. The heavy
stain, much of it now rubbed away prompts a dating not much later than early 19th
century. However, the style of carving, details in the character, and the superb
artistry can be tentatively attributed to a late 18th century carver Yoshinaga,
who was one of the fifty-three netsukeshi mentioned in Soken Kisho.