This is a very well-carved Japanese netsuke of a Shi-Shi lion dog, loved in Buddhism for protecting temples, shrines and occasionally tombs. The Shi-Shi was believed to have the power to repel evil spirits. It is depicted with a ball-like Tama, or sacred Buddhist jewel. The Tama was a symbol of Buddhist wisdom that brings enlightenment and holds the power to grant wishes. I have heard that the shishi is sometimes tattooed on a woman's belly to protect her during childbirth. The lion (Shi-Shi) is not indigenous to Japan (or to China for that matter). Thus lion representations are created by the artist's imagination. The Shi-shi is also known as the Phoo lion or Phoo dog (sometimes spelled Fu or Foo).
Size: 1 and 3/4 inches tall.
Circa: 19th Century.
Condition: Very Good. Some remains of original polychrome. The overall condition is better than you would expect from an object of substantial age that has been displayed/handled/used, usually over the lifetimes of several owners.
Provenance: Chait Gallery.
BRIEF HISTORY OF NETSUKE (pronounced nets-keh.) When kimonos were the common sartorial choice in Japan, a sash or obi was wrapped around the waist. Many men used a device called an inro, a layered box used to store their snuff and other items. A string was run through the sides of the inro and when pulled kept the layered compartments tight. The string was then attached through two holes in the netsuke as a sort of toggle. The cord was then wrapped around the obi. Originally, netsukes were made of ivory, boxwood, or stone, and were smooth objects so as not to tear the garment. With the introduction of western clothing, netsuke lost its functional value and developed into an art form. Since the concern for tearing garments no longer existed, netsuke could be carved into all sorts of shapes, such as mythological figures, animals, various craftsman, and even erotic subjects. The two holes or a place to run the string of the inro is still included in the pieces to maintain tradition. WARNING: Collecting netsuke can become habit forming!
Different styles of netsuke: The most common is the katabori or figural netsuke. There are also sashi or long, thin netsuke. Manju netsuke is in a round, flat shape. Kagamibuta (literally, "mirror lid") are a special type of netsuke with a metal lid and a bowl. Finally, there are mask netsuke, which are miniature versions of the masks used in Noh and Kyogen plays
THIS IS MADE OF WOOD. NO IVORY IS EVER OFFERED IN MY SHOP.
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