Rokko - 5416

Rokko - Japan

The Rat Catcher
late 19th century
4,1x7,0x4,5 cm
六甲 (Rokko)
2005 bequest Maria Taglietti Lanfranchi
Inv. 5416

The subject of this okimono is "The missed mouse": it depicts a rat catcher, armed with a mallet (lost in this  piece), that has tried to attract the animal with a rice measure box (masu, 枡). The mouse has run away on his left leg and now the man tries in vain to hit him. The signature Rokko (六甲) is carved on a strip of the loincloth, his only covering.

The activity of the rat-catcher was rather widespread in ancient Japan. Our piece is an example of  representation of daily activity, one of the most popular themes in the art of netsuke and okimono carving, especially in the nineteenth century. This choice satisfied the needs of the chonin (町人), artisans and merchants living in urban areas, who were interested in netsuke and okimono depicting scenes of daily life, with some humour and a strong realism.

Rokko was an artist active in the Meiji period (1868-1912), who produced mainly okimono in wood, unlike most of his contemporaries that used ivory, drawing inspiration from the repertoire of traditional subjects.
In the Lanfranchi collection the subject of "The missed mouse" is treated with irony in a work by Minsho in which the human figure of the hunter is replaced by a clumsy oni (devil, 鬼).


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