Chokusai - 5681
This netsuke, in ivory enriched by a dense texture of ink (sumi, 墨) to outline the details, depicts a monkey (saru, 猿) dressed in a sleeveless jacket: the two hind legs are raised to cover the ear lobes, the right front one is positioned over his right eye, while the left one closes the mouth. On the back there are three similar motifs depicting some stylized corollas joined together. The two holes of the himotoshi are located on the belly of the animal. The signature Chokusai (直 齋), placed in a oval cartouche is engraved on the left hind leg.
The subject of this netsuke is a variation on the traditional theme of "Three Monkeys," still today a popular motif in Japan, especially in rural areas. In the most common iconography, there are three monkeys, one of which covers its eyes with his hands, the other its mouth and third its ears. Not seeing, speaking and hearing symbolize that no kind of evil enters the human body through the orifices exposed. The piece also stands out because one of the two eyes remain open, ironically peeking at the observer.
The author of this netsuke is Chokusai, born in Ōsaka in 1877. Skilled in working both wood and ivory, he is distinguished primarily by its ability to freely interpret traditional subjects, producing both okimono and netsuke.