Tadayoshi – snake in a gourd

Nagoya, circa 1850

A snake slithers its body through a pumpkin, easing itself in and out of holes in the gourd’s skin in a sinuous coiling movement. Its eyes are bright and the tongue flickers in an exploratory gesture. The wood is stained a reddish brown and the eyes are inlaid in dark horn.

A familiar subject of the Nagoya carvers, the explanation of this combination may simply be 
that the snake shelters in the cool damp environment of the pumpkin patch, awaiting the arrival of the small rodents which feast on its flesh, and which in turn will be eaten by the snake.

A more esoteric explanation might be that both are associated with the Hindu god, Lord 
Shiva. The snake can live for
 an extended period of time 
on nothing – therefore hoards nothing – while the pumpkin 
is hollowed out of flesh in
 order to be able to hold the nectar, emblematic of being cleansed of egotistical desire.

Wood netsuke of a snake in a gourd by Tadayoshi 1850
Wood netsuke of a snake in a gourd by Tadayoshi 1850

Signed in a rectangular reserve: Tadayoshi

Width: 3.8cm