Japan II half 19th century - 5448
The nestuke depicts a small demon (oni, 鬼), dressed only with his typical skirt made of tiger skin, sitting next to a severed forearm and holding a Buddhist rosary in his left hand while, with his right hand, he touches his own forehead. The cord (himo) could pass between a hole on the base of the composition and an opening near the elbow of the severed arm.
According to the legend, Ibaraki was a demon who lived in Kyoto, close to Rashomon gate (羅生門) , that terrorized anyone approaching, until a heroic samurai named Watanabe no Tsuna, challenged him in a fierce duel at the end of which he succeeded in cutting off the demon’s arm and make him run away.
This iconography where a small oni mourns over Ibaraki's arm is fairly widespread in netsuke art. Similar pieces are present in important collections. It can be assumed that our netsuke was created in the late eighteenth century.