Antique Ivory Netsuke of Usofuki | Antique Japanese Ivory Pendant
Dimensions: 1-7/8”l x 13/8” w x 3/4”d.
The character on this pendant with gold chain, represents a boy called Hyoutokusu, he is exceptionally rendered from “old” ivory, and has a beautiful, natural soft patina. The carving of Hyoutokusu is of course on the opposite side of the figure of Usofuki. The different size himo-toshi, (cord attachment for the netsuke), is shown in the images which indicates it is an old piece. It has a tiny gold screw attachment that keeps the seating around the netsuke, not damaging the netsuke itself. While the grooved gold setting was applied mid-20th/c, the ivory carving itself is intact and unchanged by the setting, and itself dates from much earlier, (1900s). Usofuki is a legendary and revered character in Japan. Usofuki, also known as Hyottoko, was a boy named Hyoutokusu from which the character’s name originated. Hyottoko made strange clown faces and was said to create gold out of his belly button (hence, this piece was seated and chained with 18ct. gold). This is a dramatic designed piece and originally made for a Japanese woman of wealth. This piece is unsigned.
Antique Condition: Excellent condition, with natural patina. “As is”, and retains the original craft/workmanship. Any discoloration, chipping/cracking, surface wear or structural damage noted. The only provenance we have on the piece, other than what is published herein, is that we purchased this in 1986 at the Est-Ouest Auction House which has the longest history of selling Japanese artifacts in that country.
NOTE: 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 the humorous interludes between NOH acts. Usokuki 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.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: A special 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 feature antique 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.