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Gentoku on Horse Netsuke
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Edo Period Antique Netsuke
Samurai Escaping On Horse

Netsuke Signature: Gyokusho, early 1900s'

H 1.75in.(4.5cm.), W 1.75in.(4.5cm.), D 1in.(2.5cm.)

Condition: very good

An extremely rare example of the work of Gyokusho, a master of whom little is known, but whose outstanding artistry is legend. He is listed in The Signature Book of Netsuke by George Lazarnick, Reed Pub. 1976, in which he is described as “an unrecorded Iwami carver of top quality.” Therefore this highly unusual signed piece is a work to be treasured. (The province of Iwami was the source of netsuke by Tomiharu and his fellow carvers, who liked to call themselves Iwao carvers.)

Made from a pure, tightly grained tusk tip, this ivory is colored by a cool translucence upon which a multitude of details are faithfully represented. The rich caparison of the horse, with decorated bridle, harness and flying tassels, Gentoku in his royal hat and his robe embroidered with sunbursts, leaning forward in the saddle, his face bearing an _expression of excited determination, gripping the reins in one hand while the other holds the whip with which he drives his mount to make the leap. They are seen surrounded by a rapids with frothy spume surging up alongside horse and rider.

Gentoku was a general of the late Han Dynasty. Although the descendent of an emperor, upon the death of his father he was reduced to poverty and had to support his mother by making straw shoes and mats. When the house of Han was in danger of extinction from the intrigues of usurpers, Gentoku made a pact with allies to organize forces and fight to restore the kingdom to its former glory. By 220 A.D. Gentoku had founded the Minor Han and proclaimed himself Emperor of China. At one time when entertained by a local ruler, the castle was besieged during a feast and there seemed no way of escape. The only place not surrounded was a steep battlement, at the foot of which ran a ravine with a rushing river. The emperor mounted his horse, made for the battlement and escaped by clearing the torrent with a leap of over thirty feet. His courage and incredible daring is celebrated in this fine carving. On the bottom is the signature “Gyokusho” carved in reserve at the center of a whirlpool. --RW

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Gentoku on Horse Netsuke bottomGentoku on Horse Netsuke back
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