Price on request.
A wood group of three boys playing. The boy stood with the mask has surprised his companions; one has fallen to the floor and covers his head with his hands, the other recoils, one hand covering his face and the other reaching out in an attempt to fend off the advancing demon.
The moment of surprise has been captured brilliantly; the prankster appears to have just jumped out, I imagine he has just unleashed an almighty roar on his unsuspecting friends and is very pleased with the result.
This is a netsuke that has intrigue from every angle. The boy holds the mask around 2mm away from his face; behind, it is just possible to make out a perfectly carved face. The two other boys have delicately carved plump features. The boys’ clothes hang down, the rolls and folds add a real sense of frozen motion to the netsuke. The himotoshi is formed by a large square opening to the bottom and circular exit to the side on one of the boys.
Tametaka carved and signed a handful of pieces depicting this and similar subjects. Two very similar netsuke are illustrated in MCI and Paris Edo: Convention Netsuke & Sagemomo 1994. Another is published in Eccentrics in Netsuke, by S.L. Moss. The Moss example has a beautiful Ukibori floral pattern to the boy’s robes.
Another take on boys playing by Tametaka is seen in two netsuke, one sold at Bonhams in 2014 and another in a private British collection that depicts boys playing blind man’s bluff behind a screen.
All these signed Tametaka groups and other netsuke by him that depict children have the same delicately carved soft faces, loose rolling clothes and many have the same distinctive square opening of the himotoshi. They convey a real sense of adolescent innocence. When I look at this netsuke, I can see my two boys, Henry and Thomas, at play. Boisterous and completely absorbed in the moment.
Unsigned, attributed to Tametaka, Nagoya
Late 18th century
Height: 3.8cm Width: 4.6cm Depth: 2.5cm
Similar examples: Paris Edo: Convention Netsuke & Sagemomo 1994
MCI, page 856
Bonhams London, Fine Japanese Art, 15th May 2014 – Lot 50
S.L. Moss, Eccentrics in Netsuke, number 58