Rare Japanese Snow Monkey Ivory Netsuke-Nihon Zaru | Signed

The Japanese macaque lives throughout Japan, with a range covering subtropical lowlands to sub alpine regions where the snow monkey resides. The Japanese macaque has a human-like, naked, red face with very expressive eyes. They use all four legs to get around, but will also walk just on their hind legs when they’re holding something with both hands. They also have large cheek pouches for storing food when they forage. The Japanese are very fond of their monkeys and do everything in their power to keep them wild and save them from extinction.

In religion they are found in both Buddhist and ShintolLore. The Japanese macaque, (Nihon Zaru) and monkey lore were already common elements in Buddhist legend, art, architecture, arts, religious history and iconography. One can still find old stone statues with monkey motifs in many Japanese localities — statues that are weathering away, unprotected from the elements. Over centuries, Saru worship in Japan grew greatly in popularity and interest, and peaked in the Edo period. Even so, the legacy of monkey faith is easily spotted in modern Japan. The monkey’s role in guarding against demons originates from the Japanese word for monkey, which is synonymous for the Japanese word “expel”. There are several monkey deities in Japan, with the most popular being Sanno Gongen, which deals with marriage, fertility, & childbirth. In Japan, the color red is associated closely with the monkey along with a few other deities in Shinto and Buddhist traditions. Red-colored monkey charms call sarubobo are used in Japan to ward off demons, evil spirits, and sickness. See additional images, which exemplify this writing and related product images.

We see the monkey incorporated in art forms such as this netsuke. It is wonderfully detailed and naturally patinated, and follows the standard design of a netsuke having the himo-toshi (holes for hanging from the inro) on the bottom. Approximate age: 1850-60s. The piece is signed on the bottom by the Kyoto craftsman, Masakazu. The price is based on the rarity of materials, its age, provenance, and the artistry of its fashioning. The piece measures 1-0”w x 1½”h.

NOTE: Thanks to preservation efforts, animals and endangered materials (e.g. ivory and rare woods) are conservatively used today, if not banned altogether. However, we recognize that these materials have been important since ancient times for making a wide range of functional and decorative items. We only featureantique ivory and rare tree species because, while we support conservation, we truly feel that the experience and appreciation of historic artifacts should also be  preserved.

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