Tiger on Bamboo - 5593
This netsuke depicts a tiger (tora, 虎) on a bamboo (take, 竹) stalk. The feline is seated on its rear paws whilst the front ones are outstretched, the long tail lies between the left side and the back. The head is turned towards the left, the same direction towards which is directed the tiger's hypnotic glance; its mouth is slightly opened to show the powerful jaws and part of the tongue. The fur is rendered with attention to the naturalistic details, thanks to the alternation of fine ink stained incisions of stripes and dots, outlined only on the boundaries, in an attempt to simulate the actual shape of the tiger's fur. The two holes of the himotoshi are located at the centre of the bamboo stalk, one mirroring the other.
Japanese artists who represented tigers, an animal not living in Japan, based their work mainly on Chinese paintings; therefore in many cases the images are unrealistic caricatures of the animal. Often, as in this example, the tigers are depicted along with bamboo. The composition that characterizes this netsuke, a fairly common one, seems to be inspired by similar work by Tomotada, one of the greatest netsuke carvers active in Kyoto in the eighteenth century.
The Lanfranchi collection includes a particular example of a tiger in a ceramic netsuke.