An ivory okimono of a scholar reading in his study
19th century, Japan
Height: 11cm Width: 14cm
An ivory okimono depicting an elderly scholar reading a book with Chinese text. He is seated in between a low table and a brazier with a kettle. On the table is an open book with Chinese characters, on top of another closed book. The characters have been carved in tiny detail. Also on top of the table, seeming to be also reading the book, is the figure of Hōtei, (the Japanese reading of Budai), one of the seven lucky gods. Hōtei brings fortune, luck, and happiness to the household. Hōtei was a popular subject for Chinese-style monochrome ink paintings by Japanese literati artists, and so perhaps the inclusion of a figure of Hōtei here, perhaps as a painting reference, suggests that this man is a scholar-painter. Underneath the table is a drawer with a cord handle, and two more books. In front of the scholar is a writing box, and he is holding an uchiwa fan with a cord attached to the handle. He is wearing an overcoat with a leaf design, and his kimono has a floral scroll pattern. The scholar has a long beard, is wearing a soft cap, and his tabi sock is visible. Attached to his belt is a three-layer inro with a stylised chrysanthemum-shaped netsuke.
The red lacquer seal with black outline on the base reads ‘Shūsai’ (宗齋), indicating that this is the work of the artist Kyūichi Takeuchi (1857 – 1916), whose artist name was Shūsai. Takeuchi was a famous netsuke and okimono carver in the Meiji period, who specialised in ivory carving. He became one of the first professors of the Tokyo Academy of Fine Arts.
References for artist information: Netsuke – The Life and Legend of Japan in Miniature. Madeleine R. Tollner. Fearon: 1960. p. 314. Article on Bonhams website – ‘The Beauty and Remarkable Workmanship of Tokyo School Ivory Ok.imono. https://www.bonhams.com/press_release/11605/
Ivory Okimono with identical artist seal: ‘Very finely carved Tokyo school ivory okimono of seated priest’. AAntiques Japanese Arts website. P.O.Box 59651, Potomac, Maryland. Important Japanese Ivory Okimono – priest. Item 1129262. Sold. https://www.trocadero.com/stores/aaantiquesarts/items/1129262/Important-Japanese-Ivory-Okimono-priest