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Antique Japanese Netsuke
Working Woman
Washing Laundry

Signature: Unsigned, circa: 19th Century

H 1.5 in.(4cm.), W 1.25 in.(3cm), D 0.75 in.(2cm)
Condition: very good

An early Tokyo school netsuke, carved from quality ivory, marked with striations, cream-white to cream in color, well carved with engraving in the hair lines and embroideries, sumi and traces of red pigment. Depicting a married woman looking up from her washing tub in animated conversation, her open mouth revealing black teeth. Very well carved, displaying the artistís skill from the undulating hair lines and rich gathering and draping of both hair and fabric, to the plump soles of the feet. The robe is decorated with a design of maple leaves, a symbol for the fiery beauty of autumn and the comforting ripeness of maturity. Remarkably, the womanís face is quite white in color, which may be a natural variation ingeniously captured by the artist, or could be due to bleaching to achieve the desirable white complexion. Natural himotoshi through the arms or feet.

Working Woman Netsuke
Private Collection

In Japan tooth blackening was known as Ohagura* and was believed to enhance sex appeal in addition to maintaining healthy teeth. Until the 12th century in Japan it was a sign of coming of age. Then it spread to the men of nobility and the samurai class. By the 18th century it was again confined to women. Then until the end of the 19th century in Japan it was used only by married women.

  
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