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Antique Japanese Ivory Okimono
Traveling Priest
Yamabushi
Saigyo
Okimono Signature: Kamedo, early 20th Century
H 2.75 in.(7cm.), W 1.5 in.(4cm.), D 1.5 in.(4cm.)
Condition: Mint

Saigyo was a 12th century poet, and a samurai in the service of the Imperial court. He became weary of the vanity in politics and entered Buddhist priesthood at the age of 23. Saigyo has been a popular subject for Japanese carvers since 15th century. As in this carving, he is represented traveling throughout Japan as a Yamabushi, often in the pose of composing poetry while gazing at Mount Fuji.

This intricate carving is both bold and virile. The composition is sweeping with force as in Yamabushi's intense gaze. With one foot resting on the luggage, his musculature and pose convey strength and dignity, while his robe is engraved with the symbol of the Buddhist Wheel and Om in Sanskrit. The carving has succeeded in representing a perfect samurai priest image that cannot be improved upon. Moreover, it is equally impressive that this powerfully executed okimono is also small enough to be a large netsuke. Despite such fine artistry, the carver who signed his small signature "Kamedo" is an obscure artist; whom we tentatively attribute to working in the late 19th-early 20th century.

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