Rare ivory netsuke of an ox and boy by Yamaguchi Okatomo (active 1780-1830)
A more compact composition than the Tomotada or Garaku variants of the subject, carved from a fine piece of ivory, the muzzle and haunch showing a layer of enamel or cementum. The oxherd is naked with his small genitals just visible beneath him. The hairwork on the ox’s coat is exquisite and its eyes are inlaid in horn, one somewhat redder than the other
Signed beneath: Okatomo
Kyoto, circa 1800
I can find only 3 other treatments of this subject by Okatomo. Of those, two are carved with a dressed boy standing on the other side of the ox from this composition (Hull Grundy collection, sold Sotheby’s London, 28th June 1978, lot 17, and Charles Greenfield collection, sold Sotheby’s New York, 24th March 1999, lot 32). There is another in the Newark Museum, no. 20 in Okada’s catalogue, which I have not managed to track down at the time of writing.