Project Description

Ivory Netsuke of a Shishi and Cub by Tomotada

The adult with a forepaw resting protectively on the back of the cub, which scratches its jaw.  Much of the original hairwork and dark stain survives, though the netsuke has a remarkable colour and polish. The eyes of both are inlaid with pupils in dark buffalo horn


Height: 3.4 cm


Ragnar Aschberg, Einar Mellin and Jacques Carré collections


The question of what is and is not a genuine Tomotada is a vexed one, not least in connection with netsuke of oxen.  Fortunately netsuke of shishi and cubs with his signature are far fewer (if one believes Fuld, the ratio is 322 to 7).  I do not believe that all 7 shishi groups in Fuld are by the master, but I am going to dare to propose which are by the same hand: 1. by the same artist as this netsuke, the Bushell variant now in LACMA (Goodall et al, no. 196, illd. p. 47), and the Szechenyi variant, sold in her sale at Bonhams as attributed to Tomotada, 8th November 2011, lot 13. 2. By another distinct hand, the netsuke in Eskenazi’s catalogue of Summer 1978, no. 21, and one formerly in the collection of the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium, illustrated in Lazarnick’s ‘Netsuke and Inro Artists ….’, p.1163. This type is characterised by a fixed ball clenched between the teeth, which may have been lost from the latter netsuke. From memory Moss had another example.  3. I would suggest that the example in Bushell’s 4th sale (Christie’s NY, 23rd April 1991, lot 225) is by Okakoto. 4. I suspect yet another hand responsible for Floyd Segel’s, sold in his sale at Sotheby’s Chicago, 7th July 1999, lot 90.  It is interesting to note that Fuld lists no signed shishi and cub by any one of Tomotada’s immediate followers.


Christie’s London, ‘E. Mellin Collection’, 12th November 1973, lot 134

‘Bulletin Association Franco-Japonaise’, March 1984, p. 9, fig. 8

Eskenazi, Carré collection, 1993, no. 143