Japanese Antique Carved Wood Netsuke | RARE Shunga Netsuke


Dimensions: 1 3/8”w x 7/8”d x 1 ½”h 

The Kami, or deity, related to sexuality is called “Dosojin”— a Kami couple that personifies the male-female dynamic as a symbolic, explicit scene of love-making and exemplified in this rare and unusual carving. These folkloric relics have been uncovered all over Japan including in shrines and temples, and can be seen in the form of amulets offering a protective and contemplative effect. In the 18th and 19th centuries, erotic art was consumed by various classes and given the name of Shunga which was enjoyed by all and sought to idealize the rising “chonin” middle class, who carried Shunga in their pocket because of superstitious beliefs.

Being offered is a very RARE Shunga Netsuke directly tied to Buddhist beliefs and a reflection piece dating from the early 19th/Century referred to as a Sagemono. The piece is hand-carved and represents Bosatsu and Orian and is made from remnants of Umoregi Zaiku wood having a very dark, brown soft luster. During this period many wealthy Japanese gentlemen, and those in professions where traveling were a netsuke attached to a cord ending in an Inro, was required. The netsuke was then hung over the obi and prevented them from losing the piece, as they were firmly attached and positioned on top of the sash.

The Details: The front image of the piece offered shows a juxtaposition of the combination of the half-male face incarnation of Bosatsu and the half-female face of a Courtesan-Orian (a woman of pleasure). From one side you see Bosatsu with his elongated, expressive ear and textured hair with a topknot, (chonmage), which was a status symbol. On the other side is a female depiction again with textured hair and an ornament in the middle. From the top is seen the combination of both heads along with two different size Himotoshi openings (these holes were used to pass a cord through allowing the netsuke to be fastened to the Sagemono, in which one hole is larger than the other indicating that the knot would slip into the larger hole and allow the netsuke to lie flat against the wearer).

On the bottom of the piece is the hand of Orian reaching over to Bosatsu. The backside is self-explanatory showing, the copulating figures and containing the maker's mark on the cheek of Bosatsu

Condition: Wonderfully preserved and beautiful condition with exceptional and detailed carving, hand craftsmanship, and wonderful patina.

NOTE: The number of great carvers during this period has signatures that are difficult to translate because of the age of the ideogram, especially during the early stage of netsuke development.