ivory netsuke inscribed Ikko

18th century

shachi-hoko (winged dragon fish)

length 2 1/2 in., 6.2 cm

with its fierce dragon's head, the creature's mouth is open in a typically forbidding snarl, compactly carved, flames leap from the wings and up over the scaly body while the brush-like tail fin curls tightly upwards, bearing a rich golden patina, with eyes inlaid in dark horn, later signature Ikko inscribed on the underside

Shachi-hoko are variously described as having the head of a tiger, lion, or dragon, and the body of a fish such as a carp. The kanji (which contains the radical read gyo or sakana, both of which refer to fish), can be read either shachi, which refers to grampus fish (of the dolphin family) or orca, or can be read shachi-hoko, which refers to this mythological creature. As Shachi-hoko were thought to have the power to summon rain, they are commonly found as architectural elements on Edo Period temples, castles, samurai homes and gates as protectors from fire.

Soken Kisho

This classical representation of the subject is similar to a design illustrated by Shumemaru in the artists' handbook Soken Kisho (see detail at right) published in 1781. Interestingly, Shumemaru identifies the subject more simply as ryuhi, or flying dragon.

Ex Carlo Monzino Collection

Expressions of Style: Netsuke as Art, Scholten Japanese Art, New York, August 2001, no. 77


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site last updated
October 3, 2022

Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
fx: (212) 585-0475