Toyomasa - 5564

Toyomasa, Tamba school

Karasu-tengu hatching from its Egg
I half 19th century
4,3x3,5x2,2 cm
豊昌 (Toyomasa)
2005 bequest Maria Taglietti Lanfranchi
Inv. 5564

This netsuke, made in stained boxwood with eye enriched by horn inserts, depicts a karasu-tengu (烏天狗) while coming out from its egg. The two holes of the himotoshi, one larger than the other, are located under of the composition. Just below the claws is carved the signature Toyomasa (豊 昌).
The tengu are fantastic animals. The name tiengou (天狗) (celestial dog) derives from Chinese folklore in which it was represented as a canine monster smilar to a comet or a falling star. The tengu became widespread in Japan in the 6th-7th century, when Buddhism was introduced. The karasu-tengu are tengu with a crow’s face. According to Japanese tradition these creatures where born from eggs and lived in organised groups in the deepest mountain recesses: they were very evil and were accused of kidnapping women and children.  As time passed they lost this negative connotation and became good and friendly creatures. The theme of the tengu emerging from its egg was very popular amongst the netsukeshi, in particular those of the Tamba school, founded by Naito Toyomasa.

There are many other netsuke signed Toyomasa similar to this one of the Lanfranchi collection. However, our artwork, that doesn’t have the accuracy that characterises the master, cannot be ascribed to his hand. Most certainly it is the work of one of his disciples, maybe his son Toyoyasu that at a young age signed as Toyomasa.