Signature: Gyokushi. Circa: 19th century
Recorded artist in The Netsuke Handbook by Ueda Reikichi
H 1.25 in.(3cm), W 1.25 in.(3cm), D 1 in.(2.5cm) Minor usage worn, o.a. very good condition
Floating on the crossroad of life and death, this 19th century small netsuke carved with head-spinning intricate details, reveling with poignancy the transient nature of all things, essential to the fundamental teaching in Buddhism. In Japan this is approached head on in the funerary rites. Relatives of the deceased are expected to pick up the bone shards with chopsticks and ceremonially place them into a funerary urn. As in this skeleton squatting by a large skull, he appears to be hauling with a toad for possession of a lotus bud. The miniature was likely inspired by the Lotus Sutra, which serves as a reminder of form is emptiness and emptiness is form, the cycles of gain and loss and life and death for the faithful is in truth a harbinger of good fortune. Signed by Gyokushi, this netsuke is an exceptional example of the carver's superb artistry, which evokes an existential subjects with a candid humor and metaphor that reaches the depth of our psyche.