BRONZE BUDDHAWOOD BUDDHASTONE BUDDHAJAPANESE NETSUKE
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Antique Japanese Netsuke
Howling Wolf
Seizing Skull

Signature: Gyokuseki, Circa: Edo Period
H 2 in.(5cm), W 1 in.(2.5cm), D 1 in.(2.5cm)

A growling wolf tightly resting his left paw on a skull may look gruesome to the West; however, it was a common practice in the feudal society of Japan, where the severed head of an executed criminal was simply left for wild animals to devour. Such an image was considered a powerful talisman to repel evil spirits. Thus the wolf with human skull was believed to be a lucky charm in the old Japan, and a common theme among netsuke carvers.

 

Wolf holding Skull Netsuke
Sold To Private Collection

Distinct from haunch wolves by masters such as Tomotada, Kokei, Tomonobu; the wolf by Gyokuseki shown here is modeled with enlarged tense eyes and backward pointing ears, its grip on the skull has the commanding power of the fu-dog... but the wolf's image in a muscular body with faintly shown rib cage, is caught in a suspended moment just before leaping forward.

This netsuke is an outstanding piece. Aside from its intricate carving technique and the overall design for its purpose, the superb artistry succeeded in transcending this netsuke into a miniature sculpture. Though little is know of his life, Gyokuseki's netsuke are recorded in London as early as 1922, in the W.L. Behrens Collection, by Henry Joly.

 
 
 
 
 
Wolf w. Skull Netsuke
 
 
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