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Antique Japanese Stag Antler Netsuke
Happy Sennin
Holding Staff and Gourd
Signature: unsigned, Early 19th Century
H 2 in.(5cm), W 0.8 in.(2cm), D 0.8 in.(2cm)
Condition: usage worn, o.a. very good

Smiling Chokaro 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.

The 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.


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