"Head wrapped, left hand on knee, right hand behind him on sack. Squatting with ivory demon head poking out of sack, and wooden carved demon with inlaid ivory eyes and teeth. Ivory signature panel. Eyes and teeth inlaid. Wearing straw sandals. Mount with mirror beneath. Mat: wood, ivory, pigment- multi (black and stain), Proc: carving, inlaying, staining." -Unknown, no date
A Japanese netsuke in okimono style of a seated traveler with oni wrapped in a furoshiki, boxwood with inlaid ivory details, 19th Century, signed Ryukei on an inlaid rectangular ivory tablet. Height 2 inches.
A furoshiki is a Japanese term used to describe a square piece of cloth, which may vary in size, used to wrap around all kinds of objects which are being transported; they serve much the same function as a shoppping bag would in Western civilization. An oni is a Japanese term applied to demons, which were believed to inhabit both the lower regions and the celestial realm. The oni of the nether regions are believed to have red or green bodies, and often the heads of oxen or horses, and are said to come to fetch sinners to take them before the god of death, called Emma-o in Japan. Related to them are the humorous Buddhist figures representing oni, still showing grotesque features and horns, but converted to Buddhism and dressed as mendicant monks. Oni are frequently represented in Japanese painting and sculpture.
The netsuke shi Ryukei I (Hokyo Shinshisai) was a Tokyo school carver working in the first quarter of the 19th Century whose works are very rare. All the recorded netsuke of this carver are wood in okimono style with inlaid ivory details.
A netsuke is a Japanese miniature carving made of a large variety of materials notably wood and ivory. Netsuke became popular during the Genroku period (1680-1710), when elaborately carved netsuke were produced. The height of fashion for daily use with functioning sagemono was reached during the Edo period (1615-1868), 18th and 19th Centuries. Their use declined as the Japanese became westernized. When they were no longer widely used, they became objets d'art, highly sought after by Collectors. Many Japanese netsuke shi (shi meaning carver) specialized in netsuke as well as okimono. The okimono, especially wood, is exceedingly rare and expensive in today's market. Many Edo and Meiji period netsuke, by quality carvers are also rare and expensive in today's market. Both have high demand and low supply, thus high prices prevail.
The netsuke serves as a toggle or catch to hold the cord attached to a "sagemono". The literal meaning of sagemono is "hanging thing(s)" which are any pendant object(s) suspended from the girdle, such as inro (medicine case) tonkotsu (pipe case), kinchaku (money pouch), yatate (container for ink and brush), etc.
The sagemono most closely associated with netsuke is the inro. Inro: small Japanese containers made in compartments which are fitted perfectly one on top of the other. They were produced in many materials, with wood, lacquer and ivory being used most often. They were popular medicine cases (the compartments used to house herbal remedies) that were carried on the hip, suspended from the obi with a double silk cord attached to a netsuke. A small bead called "ojime" held the cords together just below the obi and allowed the wearer to make the cord taut or loose." - Bernie McManus, Appraiser, Woodbury House, Connecticut, 9/7/2000.