Minkoku - 5465
The netsuke depicts a kneeling woman while she is fulling a cloth. A Chinese boy (karako, 唐子) watches her closely from behind. The woman's dress is decorated with a maple leaves motif (momiji, 紅葉). The two small himotoshi holes are located in the the lower side of the composition. The signature Minkoku (民谷) is carved under the fulling frame.
The subject of the fuller is a common repertory of the Minkoku workshop whose first master mostly worked in wood and was active around the end of the eighteenth century. The author of this piece of the Lanfranchi collection could be Minkoku II, son of the workshop's founder.
Washing dresses was one of the feminine duties, according to the Confucian ethic. The washing took place on the river banks or at home in a tub (tarai, 盥). After soaping, clothes were beaten to make them cleaner. Cotton and linen fabrics were first folded and then beaten with a wooden mallet or with a stone, while those in silk were wrapped around a bar (kinuta, 砧) attached to a frame, and the beaten. The kimono parts in silk were stretched in order to dry better, after washing, and then put together; those in cotton were hanged to bamboo poles.