Masanao - horse and rat netsuke

Ise Yamada, circa 1850

A pairing of a horse and rat, the rodent seated on the larger animal’s back. The horse raises its head to the left and tail swishes forwards, while its companion sits in an alert position on his flank. The hooves are tucked neatly underneath, the rear leg and tail creating an opening for the himotoshi. The eyes are inlaid in dark horn.

Shown together, these two animals represent opposing signs of the Asian zodiac and generally represent clashing personalities. The rat is the first sign of the zodiac, having arrived first to the Emperor’s party, after tricking the ox into giving him a ride then jumping in front of him upon arrival.

Signed: Masanao
Width: 4.2cm

Provenance:
Dr Gunther collection
Michael Tomkinson collection
Mander collection
M.T. Hindson collection
Victor Topper collection
Published:
Hurtig, B., Masterpieces of Netsuke Art, Tokyo and New York 1973, pl. 739
Davey, N.K., Netsuke, London, revised 1982, p. 222, no. 677

Signature Masanao