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Fire Shishi Netsuke

Antique Horn Inlaids Netsuke
Kara Shishi
Temple Lion On Large Ball

Netsuke Signature: Unsigned, late 18th Century
h. 1.5 in.(3.5cm), w. 1.5 in.(3.5cm), d. 1.25 in.(3cm)
Condition: usage worn and cracklines

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This shishi displays the high artistry of Edo style in its conception--the head abruptly turned to face a challenge, abundant balls of fur piled into swirling masses, the teeth individually defined, the doglike ears, inset horn eyes, all masterfully carved from the tip of a quality tusk, complete and impressive in its lineage and stylistic integrity.

The shishi was carved during the 70-year period of 1780-1850, when fine quality works were produced in substantial quantities by artists in Osaka, Kyoto, and Edo (Tokyo) where there was access to ivory. The major carvers of the Tokyo School such as Komei and Yoshida Homei are recognized and recorded and the works of their schools highly prized. Artists outside these population centers used boxwood or cherrywood, narwhal, boar's tusk, amber, stag antler, pottery, bamboo etc, but none of these materials provided the range of expression available to artists working in ivory, which with its fine grain can be cut in any direction and allows unrestricted undercutting and a glossy, translucent finish. The meeting of this material with the culture of Edo resulted in netsuke that were dramatic, eccentric and flamboyant as exemplified in this piece, compared to regional styles which tended to be more traditional and reserved.

Shishi are the fabulous protective lions always associated with the Buddhist deity Monju, the Japanese name for Maitreya. The open mouth along with the ball, or Tama, indicate a male shishi. The tama is a symbol of Buddhist wisdom that brings light into the darkness and possesses the power to fulfill every wish.

Edo Shishi Lion Netsuke
Last BuddhaFuture Buddha

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