netsuke

unsigned wood netsuke

19th century

oni with a club

height 2 1/8 in., 5.4 cm

the oni stands facing forward while holding a tall club, the loop handle of the weapon resting against the side of his head, he bites his lower lip and leans forward slightly, the black pupils of his eyes inlaid; signed with kao (unidentified) on tip of club unsigned, 19th century

This netsuke brings to mind the Japanese proverb: oni ni kanabo (lit. an iron club for a demon), which suggests that only great power should be given to the strong. This wisdom is all the more amusing when illustrated by this dimunitive oni with his large club. Oni holding large clubs are often found at the gates of onsen (hot springs) in Jigoku-dani (lit. 'Hell Valley') in Beppu on Kyushu. The sulphurous vapors and hot waters were thought to emerge from fractures reaching down to the realm of Emma-O, the King of Hell.

The unidentified kao on the tip of the club is very similar to a kao found on a wood seal netsuke of a shishi illustrated in Bushell, Netsuke Familiar & Unfamiliar (1975), p. 201, no. 600.

another view and signature

kikumon

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Contact Katherine Martin at
(212) 585-0474 or email
kem@scholten-japanese-art.com
to schedule a visit.

site last updated
June 14, 2019

Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
fx: (212) 585-0475