Otoman ivory netsuke

Kyushu, 19th century

weepy, rowdy and rough

1 3/8 by 1 1/4 in., 3.5 by 3.1 cm

an ivory study of the three types of drunks; at right sits a sorrowful man wipes his eyes; at left a jovial man throws back his head in a wide-mouthed laugh, standing behind them, a scowling man pushes up his sleeve from his clenched fist as if preparing for a fight; stained to highlight details, signed Otoman

Otoman of Kyushu was a carver of the highest order. He is primarily known for his dramatic tigers, believed to have been carved later in his career, however, he did produce a variety of lively figural subjects as well. The signature on this amusing grouping, formed with two characters Oto-man (K304; K440) has been associated with his earlier work. There are later Otoman pieces which utilize a three character signature O-to-man (K266, K247, K440), leading to some speculation that there were two different carvers using the same chomei during approximately the same time period. It may be that he changed his signature to reference an obsolete reading of o-to which could mean tiger, his 'signature' subject (see Lazarnick, Netsuke and Inro Artists and How to Read Their Signatures, vol.II, p. 856-857). While this question may still be open to debate, be it one carver or two, works bearing the Otoman signature are usually very accomplished.


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(212) 585-0474 or email
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site last updated
October 21, 2021

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