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Three Heros Netsuke

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19th Century Japanese Okimono Netsuke
Three Heros
Romance of the Three Kingdoms

Signed: Ono Ryoji, Circa: Meiji

H 2.5in.(6.5cm.), W 2 in.(5cm), D 1.5in.(3cm)

Condition: very good

Ono Ryoji is a well documented 19th century master whose work is rarely encountered outside of established collections. Some of his fine carvings are recorded in 1) The Netsuke Handbook by Raymond Bushell #834. 2) Netsuke, A Comprehensive Study Based On The MT HIndson Collection by Neil Davey #2049. 3) Netsuke, A. Brockhaus Leipzig 1905. 4) Netsuke, F.M. Jonas, Kobe 1928.

The remarkably complex and sumptuously detailed carving is a tribute to the brotherhood of three eminent historical Chinese heroes of the 2nd century A.D. The scene is a faithful rendering of Chinese legendary literature Romance of The Three Kingdom (Sanguo Yanyi). In this depiction, the warriors Kanu (Kuan Yu) and Chohi (Cheung Fai) are seated while Gentoku (Lu Pei), first Emperor of the Lesser Han Dynasty, serves them wine, acknowledging his indebtedness as Emperor for the support of his sworn brothers.

The Three Heros are wearing ornate garments, woven armor and embroidered robes in an animated display of surface decoration, firmly carved and fluently engraved. The faces are fully individualized miniature portraits. While the God of War and the Emperor confer, the vigilant Chohi turns away, settled in his armor and gripping his brother's Green Dragon halberd, guarding the conference with glowering eyes. Such lavish attention to detail over so complex a composition is the province of only the most accomplished of artists--one with the ability and the spirit with which this crowded scene is brought to life. The three figures are carved from one piece of fine tusk ivory, with color ranging from light cream to honey. Despite its age, it is in superb condition. --RW

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