Sennin, one of the eight immortals, and council of many a royal court. Slung across
his back is a gourd, said to contain a white mule that will carry him a thousand
miles a day, and when finished, will fold like a sheet of paper back into the
gourd. Early netsuke of Chokwaro like this one tend not to show the mule, but
in later depictions he is often shown releasing the mule, originating the Japanese
expression “mule from a gourd”, used to describe an unexpected event.
piece is unsigned, along with its style and material, an indicator of its pre-mid
19th century status, when netsuke artists worked anonymously; a time when netsuke
was not considered a true art form, and was more of a folk art. The antique stag
antler ivory has aged attractively, preserving the carver’s skill and vision.
Minute details, from the mugwort around his waist and neck to his tiny teeth and
soles of his feet give this piece a precise look and feel.