Sig: Masanao (III). Circa: early 20th Century
Recorded in "The Netsuke Handbook" by Ueda Reikichi #614
H 0.8 in. (2cm), W 1.8 in. (4.6cm), D 1.2 in. (3cm)
This fanciful carving shows attention to the overlooked or insignificant subject that is one of the hallmarks of netsuke tradition. Here a large and a small frog are riding a straw sandal. The heads and backs of the creatures are burnished with pin size textures, while their bodies are carved with round chisels to soften the skin tone. It is difficult to convey the care used in making this piece; held in the hand it reveals a near translucency that delights us with the affectionate realism of a master carver. The amphibians themselves have great characters, with beady eyes and big smiles, they remind us of a mother and child riding in a boat. The flipside of the straw sandal with tie string is clearly articulated by the artist's master precision. This netsuke bears the artist's signature Masanao on the bottom. Masanao is one of the most important netsuke carvers in history. Given its mint condition, the work is attributed to the School of Masanao III in the mid-20th century.