Condition: Excellent

Netsuke of Usofuki, and Boy named Hyoutokusu | Antique Ivory

Usofuki is a legendary character in Japan. Usofuki, also known as Hyottoko, was a boy namedHyoutokusu from which the character’s name originated. Hyoutokusu made strange clown faces and was said to create gold out of his belly button (hence why this piece was encased using gold). While the grooved gold setting was applied mid-20th/c, the ivory carving itself is intact and unchanged by the setting, and dates from a much earlier time. This is a dramatic piece with a wonderful folk tale, and made to be worn as a pendant.

Some Usofuki have different sized eyes, but most have one eye closed and one open, as illustrated in this carving. Usofuki appeared in traditional dance during the Edo period, and is one of NOH theatre’s most popular characters, as is seen in his many diverse roles in Kyogen and the humorous interludes between NOH acts. Usofuki can appear as a scarecrow, a mushroom, a mosquito, or even a stone God. Today and throughout Japan, festival participants dress up in the role of this famous character.

As for the carving of the boy Hyoutokusu, he is exceptionally rendered, with a soft patina from the aging Ivory. The carving of Hyoutokusu is of course on the opposite side of Usofuki since they are one and the same in reality. The different size himo-toshi (cord attachment for the netsuke) is shown in the images. The setting has a tiny gold screw attachment that keeps the setting around the netsuke without disturbing the original carving. This piece is unsigned, in excellent condition, with natural patina. Age: 1900-1920. Dimensions: 1-7/8”l x 13/8” w x 3/4”d.

NOTE: Thanks to preservation efforts, animal ivory and other endangered materials (e.g. tortoise shell, coral, rare woods), are conservatively used today, if not banned altogether. However, we recognize that these materials have been important since ancient times in the use of a wide range of religious, functional, and decorative items. We only feature pre-banned ivory and other rare materials because, while we support conservation, we also feel that the experience and appreciation of historical artifacts should be preserved as well. Prospective purchasers are advised that several countries prohibit the importation of property containing materials from endangered species, including but not limited to coral, ivory and tortoiseshell. Accordingly, prospective purchasers should familiarize themselves with relevant customs regulations prior to purchase if they intend to import this piece into another country.

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