This is an old wood netsuke of a Kirin. A kirin is a mythical hooved chimerical creature known throughout various East Asian cultures, said to appear with the imminent arrival or passing of a sage or illustrious ruler. After looking further, it is most likely older than we have noted. It does have the warmth and allure of older wood. Paying attention to the grooves in between the carving, there appears to be significant wear around the head and face. It has a natural himotoshi made by the wood from under its chin connecting to its chest. It is also possible that this is Chinese, although we purchased as Japanese (just looking at the carving style), and the best I recall, from Japan. All of our netsuke have been purchased from Japan, the UK, and the US. They are all good quality Japanese wood or tagua nut, and have no damage unless otherwise stated. This one appears to have a chip on his foot but it is a glare, not a chip. It is not signed.
This netsuke are sized in the last picture on a note by photographer, Brent.
Netsuke are miniature sculptures that were invented in 17th-century Japan to serve a practical function (the two Japanese characters ne+tsuke mean "root" and "to attach"). Traditional Japanese garments—robes called kosode and kimono—had no pockets; however, men who wore them needed a place to store their personal belongings, such as pipes, tobacco, money, seals, or medicines.
Their solution was to place such objects in containers (called sagemono) hung by cords from the robes' sashes (obi). The containers may have been pouches or small woven baskets, but the most popular were beautifully crafted boxes (inrō), which were held shut by ojime, which were sliding beads on cords. Whatever the form of the container, the fastener that secured the cord at the top of the sash was a carved, button-like toggle called a netsuke.
Netsuke, like the inrō and ojime, evolved over time from being strictly utilitarian into objects of great artistic merit and an expression of extraordinary craftsmanship. Such objects have a long history reflecting the important aspects of Japanese folklore and life. Netsuke production was most popular during the Edo period in Japan, around 1615-1868. Today, the art lives on, and some modern works can command high prices in the UK, Europe, the USA, Japan and elsewhere. Inexpensive yet faithful reproductions are available in museums and souvenir shops.
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