the late eighteenth century Japan, rapid development of the five major highways
effectively turning Edo into the world’s most populated city. This created a huge
demand for netsuke not only from Edo carvers, but also from netsuke-shi in nearby
cities. Attracted by the steady business, along with the traditional carvers,
metalsmiths and potters began to produce a large numbers of manju and katabori.
Among ceramic netsuke such as Imari, Celadon and Bizen, Hirado was noted for its
animal figures, and particularly favored by the Lord Matsuura (1760-1841). It
became so popular that majority of porcelain netsuke were made of Hirado ware.
on a hollow core thin cast, hand traced and chiseled in details, adding additional
realism that simulated the appearance of carved ivory. Signed Masakazu in raised
high relief inside an oval reserve. The motif of this exceptionally fine Hirado
porcelain netsuke of a Herdboy on Ox was originally conceived by the 12th century
Chinese Zen Master Kuoan Shihyuan, who illustrated a series of ten ox-herding
pictures depicting the stages of practice leading to the enlightenment. Masakazu
was a successful netsuke carver with workshop in Edo, Kyoto and Osaka areas. Today
many of his Hirado ware netsuke are found in the collection of Toledo Museum of
Art in Ohio.