Kagawa Katsuhiro (1853-1917)
Tokyo, circa 1880
An unsigned ivory netsuke of a reclining elephant, limbs tucked beneath its body and trunk sweeping back to its side. The leather tobacco pouch decorated with a design of a reclining elephant in whiteish lacquer with details in brown lacquer. A rare and exotic sight in Japan, elephants were very occasionally brought over as gifts, but were more likely seen in illustrated form in imported books. This appears to be the smaller-eared Indian elephant. The lines of dark lacquer emphasise the folds of the creature’s skin. The pachyderm’s’s feet always seem to present a problem to Japanese artists, often depicted with solid hooves or clawed feet. This image comes slightly closer in accuracy by showing toes with nails, but they are formed rather a like short stubby digits on a human hand.
Kagedo record the following biographical information for Kagawa Katsuhiro: was born in the Shimoya district of Edo (later Tokyo). From the age of 12 he studied wood carving with Ariyoshi Katsumori, a specialist in Noh masks. Later he studied drawing under Shibata Zeshin, and metal arts first with Nomura Katsunori and subsequently Kano Natsuo. In 1903, he became a full professor at the Tokyo Bijutsu Gakko (Tokyo School of Fine Art), and in 1906 he was made an Imperial Artist. Katsuhiro exhibited widely at both national and international venues. Among the latter were Nuremburg (1885), Chicago (1893), Venice (1898), Paris (1900), and London (1910).