Hirata Suketomo (1809-1847)
Hida, circa 1835
A large toad squats on a discarded straw hat, its body tense and limbs flexed ready to leap. The warty surface of its skin is carved in minute detail, as is the woven bamboo and the cord ties on the underside the hat. The oval eyes double inlaid in pale and dark buffalo horn and enhanced from behind with red foil.
Hirata Suketomo was the first carver of the Hida school and netsuke by him are scarce. Born in Takayama, it has been written that he travelled to Edo where he studied under Yamaguchi Tomochika, producing work for Hinoya, a sagemono shop in the Nihonbashi district. However, Japanese experts and Tsuda Suketomo question this statement as the carvings show no affinity to the work of Tomochika and the tomo of Suketomo’s signature uses a completely different kanji than that of his supposed teacher. His career was cut short by his early death at the age of 38. Eishinsai is a studio name, while Hirata is his family name.
Neil Davey records another example of this subject in his book Netsuke, a Comprehensive Study based on the M.T. Hindson Collection, p.235, no. 727. The Hindson example has a smaller amphibian and is signed in the same manner as the present example. The Hindson carving is also recorded in the MCI, p. 830