Tomotada ivory netsuke

Kyoto, 18th century

reclining ox

length 2 3/8 in., 6 cm

sensitively carved with its head slightly raised, a thick rope halter attached to its nose trails across his back, the horns curl back behind its ears while the tail flicks up against the right hindquater, traces of dark staining color the lightly incised hairwork and the ivory bears a warm and glossy patina, the underside with a rich translucency, the artist cleverly utilized a natural variation in the ivory along the backside of the animal to suggest typical coloring of an ox; signed within a rectangular reserve, Tomotada

Tomotada is certainly considered one of the most important artists among all netsuke carvers. From the Soken Kisho handbook for artists published in 1781, we know Tomotada was celebrated in his own lifetime, and that his carvings of ox were particularly valued. And while there are many extremely fine netsuke of a variety of subjects (including animals, mythical creatures, and figures) bearing the Tomotada signature, his renown for carving ox is repeated in virtually every subsequent early publication on netsuke. As such, it is not surprising that there are a number of Tomotada (or Tomotada school) ox netsuke extant. This abundance of models of one subject may seem to cloud the significance of his carvings; but it also offers the collector an opportunity to train the eye and a challenge to look for works that are the hand of a master.

Expressions of Style: Netsuke as Art, Scholten Japanese Art, New York, August 2001, no. 113

another view


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site last updated
May 25, 2023

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