Minsho - 5517

Minsho - Japan

Oni with a Rat
II half 19th century
2,8x4,2x2,8 cm
眠笑 (Minsho)
2005 bequest Maria Taglietti Lanfranchi
Inv. 5517

The composition depicts an oni (demon, 鬼) kneeling with his arms outstretched to grab the corners of a rice measuring box (masu, 枡);  the face, characterized by an expression of surprise, is turned to the right to watch a mouse that climbed on his shoulders. The material used is boxwood with horn inserts. The cord (himo) may pass between his arms. The signature Minsho (眠笑) is engraved on the oni's belly, and on each of the four sides of the box is engraved  the Chinese character 京 miyako, or kyo, which means "capital".
It is a parody of the theme of "The Missed Mouse", which normally uses as subject   a rat catcher, a fairly widespread profession in ancient  Japan . Other versions of this parody are known, such as the one where a monkey takes the place of the oni. Very few  Minsho netsuke are documented.
An example of the classic iconography of the rat-catcher in the Lanfranchi collection is the work of Rokko.


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