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Oni  Hell Tax Netsuke

Authentic Antique Japanese Netsuke
Oni Pay Your Way
Selling Permit to Hell
Signature: unsigned, early 19th century
H 2.4 in.(6cm), W 1in.(2.5cm), D 1 in.(2.5cm)
- Measurement not included wood base
Condition: Very Good!

A 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".

The 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.

Private Collection

Oni  Hell Tax Netsuke
Oni Pay Your Way to Hell
Last BuddhaFuture Buddha

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