Ivory Netsuke of a Dancing Fox
Its forepaws raised as it dances, the tail providing a natural himotoshi
Unsigned. Circa 1800
Height: 7.9 cm
Sale, Sotheby’s London, 20th June 2002, lot 633
In Chinese and Japanese mythology the fox is one of several animals set on doing evil to mankind. In this it is partly aided by supernatural and demoniac powers, which allow it to shape shift, more often than not into a woman, young or old (gender stereotypes as old as the hills). It is omniscient and capable of taking possession of its human victims. There are many different Japanese folk tales associated with foxes. In the present netsuke the fox is probably caught in mid transformation into a seductress.
Perhaps the most successful, but certainly best known, netsuke of the subject is illustrated on the cover of the LACMA catalogue of the Bushell bequest of netsuke to the museum