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Neil Holton Japanese Art


A number of terms have been used to identify a type of single person storyteller. Rakugo has been in usage for at least two centuries.

It was certainly in use when this Netsuke was made in Osaka. The practice has been similar since its inception. Originally a Monk would sit on a matt and deliver sermons to observers, the Monk would animate their performances by altering voice and tone. Observers of these sermons at some point must have thought that this practice could be adapted to performing in the streets during festivals or nightly in this pleasure districts and the Rakugo was born.

Comedic content is core to these performances. Through suggestion, humour is delivered with a helping of wit and the odd rattle or flutter of a fan. Our Rakugo seated adjacent to a Daruma hand warmer gently places his hand in the fold of his trousers (hakama) clearly something is contained within his trousers much more heated! Judging the expression on the Daruma warmer, I suspect the Zen patriarch believes he’s either missing out or pleased to be left well alone, you’ll have to decide?!

Many aspects of this Netsuke announces the studio of Sansho. A magical studio that conjures a smile, merely at the mention of the name. Humour was their trademark, often with moral judgement vs. debauchery at the core of the work. Lacking a signature we must examine secondary signatures to determine whether an attribution is accurate. The chosen material that Sansho used was a pale boxwood like ours and the Daruma Doll with various expressions is virtually a trait of this studio. Please see: A Legacy at the LACMA. The Raymond & Frances Bushell Collection of Netsuke. Number 663, page 412. also: In a Nutshell. Japanese Netsuke from European collections. Number 53 & 55, page 37. Subtle use of inlay can also be compared to a Taikomochi figure in the same title. Number 60, page 38..

Anonymous: Attributed to Sansho. Meiji Period.

Guide Price - £4000