ivory netsuke, attributed to Yoshitomo

Kyoto, mid-18th century

ivory Kanzan and Jittoku

length 2 5/8 in., 6.8 cm

the two friends hold an unrolled scroll while Kanzan one points to the inscription (possibly his poetry) within, the seated Jittoku rests his broom behind his friend, stained to highlight details, with later signature on the underside along the edge of Jittoku's robe, Okakoto

The two legendary Chinese eccentrics, Kanzan and Jittoku, were thought to have lived near Mt. Tiantai in China during the Tang dynasty (618-907). Kanzan (Hanshan in Chinese), was a recluse poet who befriended a monestary servant, Jittoku (Shide in Chinese, lit. 'foundling'), named by the Zen master Bukan who found him and raised him. The three men, together with Bukan's pet tiger, comprise a group known as the shisui (the four sleepers). However, it is the pairing of Kanzan and Jittoku,with their shaggy hair, tattered robes, and blissful grins, that became a popular subject in Japanese pictoral and decorative arts, particularly in Zen paintings. Kanzan is usually depicted holding a scroll, usually regarded as his own poetry, while Jittoku often holds his broom; they were later regarded as incarnations of the bodhisattvas Monju and Fugen.

Although this netsuke is signed Okakoto- it bears all of the hallmarks of the work of Yoshitomo, a student of Yoshinaga, including the deeply carved and lively facial features with flared nostrils, well-defined cheeks and brow, as well as the treatment of the robes with scrolling chrysanthemum and geometric border at the hems and sleeves.

another view and signature


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site last updated
October 28, 2021

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