Unsigned - praying mantis netsuke

circa 1870

A praying mantis kamakiri alighted on a wheel

A praying mantis (kamakiri) has alighted on discarded wheel, the axle ring broken and vine leaves twining around the thick spokes. The shibuichi plate, with details in shakudo, gold and copper, is set a bamboo bowl, one edge displaying a small dark section of the outer culm sheath. The himotoshi is banded in stag antler.

The praying mantis is an emblem of courage and the design of the insect on a broken cartwheel alludes to a tale from Chinese legend where a mantis sees a prince’s carriage approaching and fearlessly attaches itself to the wheel. The prince’s aides explain that it is a creature of such courage that it will not retreat, even in the face of overwhelming force. The prince was so impressed by its valiance that he ordered the carriage to proceed no further, for fear of crushing the creature.

A praying mantis kamakiri alighted on a wheel

Diameter: 3.8cm