Dragon Among Clouds and Waves - 5675
This manju type netsuke depicts a dragon between clouds and waves. The coils in coral (sango, 珊瑚) of the imaginary animal dart among the tangles of umimatsu (海松), sometimes sinking and sometimes re-emerging, between sky and sea in a succession of red-orange and brown flecked with ochre. The two holes of the himotoshi, one larger than the other, are located on the underside of the composition. The dragon (tatsu or ryu, 龍 or 竜) is China's second animal of cosmology, the first of the three hundred and sixty scaly creatures, and represents the East in the four symbolic animals of the cardinal points. Throughout Far East Asia, it is the fifth sign of the zodiac; it symbolizes spring, the third month and the time between seven and nine in the morning. It is an emblem of the masculine (yang) and is associated with wind, rain and clouds.
The umimatsu, literally "sea pine", despite its outward appearance similar to that one of wood, is a type of dark coral, ranging from solid black to brown streaked with yellow. The combination in a single piece of dark materials as the umimatsu and the coral, especially if the latter material was worked in relief, was a prerogative of the Minkoku workshop. The founder, Genryosai Minkoku, already active in Edo in the late eighteenth century, had certainly many pupils, among them at least one signed with the same characters of the master.
By analogy with the production of this school, our piece can be considered made by an anonymous artist active in the Edo/Tokyo area in the second half of the nineteenth century.
Another netsuke in the Lanfranchi collection has amaryu, a variant on the theme of the dragon, as its subject.