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Mid 19th Century Japanese Netsuke
Seduced by Beauty
Netsuke Signature: Mitsuyoshi
Recorded artist in The Comprehensive Study Based
On The MT Hindson Collection by NK Davey #1652

H 2.25 in.(5.5cm), W 1 in.(2.5cm), D 1 in.(2.5cm)
Condition: rope restored, chip on toes

The name Ikkaku means “one horned.” Ikkaku is a magician who is generally shown with a woman on his back. The story goes that Ikkaku inherited his occult powers from his father and his horn from his mother, a deer. Ikkaku was leading a life of piety and chastity until he fell from grace by surrendering to the power of a beautiful woman. His trouble began when, during a storm, he slipped on the wet ground and lost his temper. In his anger he used his power to lock up the Rain Dragon in a cave. However with the Rain Dragon out of activity, a drought ensued whereupon the king consulted his astrologers, who reported that the drought was the work of sage living in the mountains, one whose spiritual powers would vanish if he were to lose his chastity. The suggestion followed that a beautiful woman be sent to tempt the holy man. The plot succeeded; Ikkaku was smitten with the woman and agreed to accompany her on a journey back to her home. On the way she complained of weariness so Ikkaku lifted her up on his back. When they reached the city, Ikkaku, bereft of his magical powers, was summarily put to death by the king, the spell over the Rain Dragon was broken, rain fell and the country was saved from disaster. The tragedy of Ikkaku and his ruination through anger and passion is frequently depicted in netsuke, such as this very fine example. His countenance is pitiable, as if he has just realized his condition. The woman’s visage, though delicately drawn, is that of a harridan. Poor Ikkaku, and that is the whole matter.


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This little ivory is forcefully expressive and superlatively carved with wonderful contrast between the lumpy face of Ikkaku and the silken mask of his tormentor. The garments with their draping folds elegantly edged and furled are wonderfully rendered. Signature on the lower robes of Ikkaku.

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