Nagoya, circa 1840

A wood netsuke of a ningyo (mermaid), her wet hair streaming in rivulets over her scaly body. She smiles contentedly, one hand pulling her tail into a loop, while the other grips the edge of her luxuriant tail fin. The details are minutely and finely carved.

Signed in a rectangular reserve: Tadayuki

Frederick Meinertzhagen in his card Index notes that Reikichi records that Tadayuki “made delicately carved ‘ningio’ netsuke in wood” that bear this same Tadayuki signature. FM suggests the artist may have been a pupil of Tadakazu.

Another artist signing Tadayuki, but with a different second character for the ‘yuki’ is not to be confused with the maker of this mermaid.

Interestingly, FM also records, under the second carver’s name, that “Okada says of Tadayuki:- Early 19th cent. Made wood netsuke of human figures and fish. His works were marked by delicacy of expression. But whether or not by error he gives the signature as 忠之

Clearly it is FM who is confused, and the artist recorded by Okada is the same as the carver of the ningyo illustrated here.

Length: 4.4cm

Teddy Hahn collection

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