Tonkotsu - Ink Cake
Tonkotsu - Ink Cake
Tonkotsu - Ink Cake
Tonkotsu - Ink Cake

Tonkotsu - Ink Cake

Price on request. 

A black lacquered tonkotsu simulating a used ink cake by Shibata Zeshin. 

The surface of the ink cake is crackled, matte to the low points with simulated dirt built up in the corners; the high points of the design are polished. The outside edge simulates the chips and wear that one would expect from a real, well-used ink cake. The bottom third is already used. Cut at an angle, an unusual part of the illusion that previously I’ve only encountered in Zeshin ink cake netsuke. 

To the front, Jurojin stands reading the book of knowledge, under the Southern Polar Star constellation. His messenger deer to one side looks over his shoulder; to the other side is an incense burner on a table. Jurojin is believed to be the personification of the Southern Polar Star. 

The verso is decorated with a Chinese poem with two characters missing, and . It is perhaps a kind of rebus for the viewer to figure out. 

“Lord of longevity and prosperity” 

“Peace and order in the world” 

The poem is from a longer Chinese saying, “The Southern Polar Star, seeing all principles, Lord of longevity and prosperity, Peace and order in the world”. 

南極見則 人主寿昌 天下治安” 

Another ink cake by Zeshin in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston depicts the same subject encountered here, rendered in a near identical way. It is catalogued as having a ten-character inscription to the rear, but sadly this isn’t pictured. The visible difference between the two is that in my example the cake has been cut; the MFA example is uncut. 

Signed, Zeshin, in scratch characters to the side (Shibata Zeshin 1807–1891) 

Mid to late 19th century 

Length: 6cm Width: 3.7cm Depth: 1.5cm 


Private European collection 

Ex. Jahass collection

If you are interested in purchasing this tonkotsu you can contact me via the details below.

Phone or Whatsapp: +447534 423 803


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