Shibayama Soichi - 5510

Shibayama Soichi, Edo/Tokyo school

Two Musicians at a Ford
second half 19th century
4,3x1,8 cm
芝山 宗一 (Shibayama Soichi)
2005 bequest Maria Taglietti Lanfranchi
Inv. 5510

This manju type netsuke shows on the upper face two bent figures crossing a river. The character that guides the  couple is holding in his right hand a stick which in part he uses to support himself and in part to probe the river bottom, while with the other hand he holds the end of another stick, which the figure behind him is also holding. Probably the two are blind. The character on the back holds a shamisen (三味線, three string instrument)  in its holder, on the other side a tobacco pouch (tabako-ire, 烟草入) with a pipe (kiseru, 烟 管) is tied to  the obi. As background to the scene there are weeping willow branches, grass and a tree trunk. The signature Shibayama Soichi (芝山 宗一) is engraved on the back in a rectangular mother-of-pearl inlay.
All the elements of the composition are obtained inlaying on the ivory different materials, such as variously coated metals (shakudo, 赤铜, copper alloy and gold), wood and mother of pearl.
The scene can be interpreted as a representation of the Oi river ford, famous for the difficulty of its passage. The river was the twenty-fourth station along the Tokaido, which is the main and most convenient way of communication between Edo and Kyoto.
Shibayama Soichi was one of the Shibayama greatest artists, grandson of Onogi Senzō, the founder of the workshop, active in Tokyo between the second half and the beginning of the twentieth century.