Signature: Osai. Circa: 19th Century
in The Netsuke Handbook of Ueda Reikichi #787
1.6 in.(3.5cm), W. 1.75 in.(4.5cm), D. 1.3 in.(2.7cm)
Condition: o.a. very good!
the Japanese legend of “The Tongue-Cut Sparrow”, Nasakeji saved a sparrow and
named her Bidori. One day a neighbor caught the little bird eating some grain
that was left in the open, she took a pair of scissor and cut off his tongue.
When Nasakeji heard of the news, he went into the forest in search of the wounded
bird. There he was greeted by Bidori and a family of sparrows. They gave him a
large and a small gift basket, but the humble old man took only the smaller one.
Upon returned home he found it full of treasures. Then the neighbor learned of
the event. She rushed into the forest and found the sparrow family. Likewise,
she was offered a large and a small gift basket, in her avarice she took the large
one, hoping that it was full of treasures. When on her way home she impatiently
opened the basket, an assembly of demons sprang out and devoured her on the spot.
astonishingly expressive netsuke depicting Nasakeji opening the gift basket, with
Bidori the sparrow by his side about to serve the kind man a cup of tea. The composition
and carving of the figures are both virile and vigorous, with sharply observed
realism and minute details. It captured the decisive moment perfectly, revealing
the high point of the drama through the joyous countenance of the man, which leads
us into still a closer look-- from the weaving of the basket, the carrier straps
and key near the base, gradually coming into focus are the meticulous stipplings
and wavy line works, that aligned in visual harmony with the mirror finishing
in sections such as the elbow patches. The netsuke is an original design completed
with thorough integrity. The brilliant artistry is unmatched, and unlike other
similar theme found in our netsuke library. Although Osai is mentioned by Ueda
Reikichi in The Netsuke Handbook, and by Neil Davey in the Hindson Collection,
there are scarcely little reference of his life and work. Which made this netsuke
a rare masterpiece in a class of its own.
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