Shishi signé Garaku
Fig. 13 Zusho Hirosato
Fig. 12 Mitsuharu
Kyoto ou Kyushu ?
It is not strange, therefore, to find that so few netsuke are signed by Kyushu artists and that Tsuji, a vassal of the Kumamoto daimyo, hid his signature inside the himotoshi. Perhaps, then, we need to consider the subjects and the material, as well. Take, for example, this netsuke (fig. 10) depicting Zhuge Liang, a renowned strategist and statesman of the period of the Three Kingdoms. He holds a crane feather fan. The netsuke is carved out of maki (Podocarpus sinensis), a wood found only in the Ryukyu Islands and on the west coast of Kyushu (frequented by migratory birds) but not in the rest of Japan. This Kyushu netsuke of a square-faced man with a moustache and beard and with such a manner of sleeve drapery is reminiscent of Tsuji. I would love to know why Joly described this subject as Gomo, one of the twenty-four paragons of filial piety. Joe Earle questioned the Joly attribution but did not offer an alternative.  The creation of the Chinese Quarter of Nagasaki (the Tojin Yashiki) in 1689—the population of which had risen to twenty percent of the Nagasaki population by 1788—was accompanied by the arrival in 1731 of numerous painters and men of letters who propounded the ethos of Ming. This would explain a certain number of Chinese subjects. My aim is to dig out these hidden and forgotten artists of Kyûshû, most of them were too honest and too modest but they made a great deal for the artistic greatness of their country. Their works of art should not be attributed to others, they have to return to their origins.
Ivory tall figures are conventionally held to be 18th century Kyoto pieces, but we do not have any documented evidence of this. Is it because we do have some signatures on some? How many Kyoto artists have signed figures of Dutchmen? Masanao, Okatomo, Yoshinaga and Yoshitomo have done so, but their styles are so recognizable that we are sure they did not carve most of the unsigned examples. Masanao, said to be from Kyoto in the Soken Kisho ( 1781), is held by many to be the foremost netsuke carver, and he made a number of Dutchman carrying animals: hare, deer, and boar or pigs. It is possible that he traveled to Nagasaki and saw Dutchmen carrying stock. I carried out some research into Masanao’s life in Kyoto but did not find anything significant. We know only that he was living in Kyoto in 1780, but nobody knows where he was born or where he died and whether at any time in his life he was not hired by some Kyushu Daimyo. We do find the signature of Hidemasa on a Dutchman carrying a child and holding a trumpet like instrument, but that does not prove anything. Hidemasa might have copied an unsigned example ( Fig.1) worn by one of the merchants allowed to buy imported goods. It is not rare to find a subject known to have been carved by some famous artiste with the signature of an other carver who copied it. As far as we know Ueda Reikichi did not look for Kyushu carvers and up to now nobody seems to have been interested. I found it surprising that Reikichi did not make any attempt to inquire about netsuke carvers under the patronage of the most powerful Daimyo of Kyushu.
Until recently I thought that all Dutch figural netsuke were carved in Kyoto or Tokyo, but since I discovered this rare (fig.2) and magnificent ivory figure of a Dutch sailor wearing trousers called « pantalon à pont” that were created and worn in France in the 17th century, I have come to doubt the veracity of that assumption. I believe there are about 50 unsigned netsuke of Dutchmen that, in my opinion, are not from Kyoto. If we look at drawings made in 1867 by Jules Brunet, a French officer sent to Japan, we find that the sailors are wearing a different kind of trousers. Consequently, this piece cannot be from the19th century since there is no design of 17th century sailors as far as I know. Japanese hardly had any opportunity to meet Dutchmen, so how could this tall figure be a Kyoto piece? Sailors would not be among those who went to see the shogun, and if the design of the netsuke is derived from the manner in which the Chinese who shaped the image of Dutchmen painted them, it is unlikely that they would have portrayed a sailor. Consequently, I surmise that the figure was described to a carver by one of the prostitutes who had contact with the Dutch or one of the servants who were changed every month so that they did not get too familiar with the Dutch I believe that some of these tall figure were produced in Nagasaki, the port through which ivory was imported. A craftsman could have entered Deshima, although not without selection and authorized by the Otona (ward headman in charge).
Every ship that arrived in Deshima was inspected. The Japanese retained its sails and did not release them until they had inspected the ship and cleared it for departure. A sailor could only stay on board his ship or go to Deshima, so there is no way that he could have been observed somewhere else in Japan. Consequently, some artist living in Nagasaki or Hirado must have carved this magnificent figure that might be 17th or early 18th century, despite its lack of wear. Wear is not evidence of age; we know that the Japanese keep their precious things in fitted boxes.
The V.O.C. based in Batavia (Djakarta) in Indonesia provided food to their people in Deshima, and among the provisions were some living stock like rabbits, roosters and pigs, which explains the netsuke figures of Dutch carrying some animals, and only people living around Deshima would have seen that.
We have a number of Dutch figures holding a shawm. This instrument was used in Deshima to signal the most significant times of day and the arrival of ships. This subject might have been inspired by the decorative poop, now in the Hirado Museum of a Dutch ship, which had sunk probably around 1630. These two figures are coming from a 17th century boat; one is wearing a ruff (fig 3), an item of clothing worn in western Europe from the mid sixteenth century to the mid seventeenth, which would explain the appearance of these features on netsuke. The other is playing a shawm ). The figures were said to be the head figure of a ship but when I saw them I realized that someone had been mistaken since they were too small in fact they were decorative figure at the back of the ship, you can see these poop figures on this drawing of a 17th century ship. (Fig.4), These figures became obsolete ( disappeared or were out of fassion) at the beginning of the 19th century.
Since for ship’s draught reason the boat had to bring the ship to anchor right in the middle of the roadstead the Japanese would not have been able to see them properly the boat being too far from the coast. So I believe that carvers must have seen them closely. These figure belonged to Ogawa Riemon Munetoshi who This man was the most powerful Citizen of Hirado and was the owner of a red seal ship (authorization of foreign trade). He was wearing a big netsuke. Since a number of ship owners had some netsuke, I imagine that he might have had a netsuke carved of the figures he kept and that a number of people could see like Nuyts, the Dutch ambassador to Japan, before returning to Europe, The Dutch trading post was in Hirado from 1609 till 1641. In 1636 Ogawa had a house built where these figures initially were kept openly and publicly called the “Ogawa An” and that until the Meiji period. There are a number of books written in which there is something about this Ogawa. [You have completely lost me here. I have no idea what you are talking about.] The last one being a study of the Hirado han published in 1936 but there are also those about other important people who were friendly with Ogawa Riemon like, Shigemasa, a vassal of Matsura Shigenobu who mentions those wood carvings. The western name mentioned in some books looks very strange and not Dutch to me: Furansu Kofunados and Francisco Gobernador. I am rather convinced that these figures, quite famous and that many people came to see, were the origin of some netsuke. In the 18th century no Dutchman in Deshima was wearing a ruff.
Dutch figural netsuke existed prior to the publication of their subjects in books. Yoshimune, shogun from 1716 to 1745 allowed foreign books to be imported in 1720 that had been strictly forbidden since 1640 starting an influx of foreign books. He was very interested in western culture and asked a teacher called “Sweet Potato” to teach him Dutch, I believe that a large number of netsuke of Dutchmen might have been carved during the Genroku period. To the best of my knowledge, there is no Japanese drawing of a Dutchman before those made by Nishikawa Joken, copied from a world map by Matteo Ricci containing illustration of western people 1720 “Shijunikoku jinbutsu zusetsu. The figures shown in books are very different than those in netsuke. The Gotö Rishun “Orandabanashi” (tales of Holland”, published in (1765) was censured for publishing an alphabet which means that after Yoshimune things were different and more restricted; a carver must have seen Dutchmen then and only the inhabitant of Nagasaki and Hirado saw some in their daily life. There was a real fascination for Dutch.
. The Dutch were confined to Deshima, the permanent staff comprised a director of the V.O.C. and ten Dutchmen guarded by a number of Japanese officials: gatekeepers, night watchmen, and a supervisor (otona) with about fifty subordinates under the direct supervision of Edo by a governor (Nagasaki bugyō). Some merchants supplied goods and catering, and about 30 tsūji ("interpreters") served. They all had to be paid by the VOC. There were also a few prostitutes, some of them called: Oranda-yuki ("those who stay with the Dutch") who were allowed to stay for longer periods, but they had to report regularly to the Japanese guard post. Some had children who could not leave Deshima before they were four years old. They are likely to be the infants we see on netsuke.
The imported goods were auctioned in Nagasaki Tateyama town hall and payment was made in akagane (refined copper). On this painting (fig.5) one can see big elephant tusks and tiger skins. The Dutch misunderstood the intricate economic systemof the Tokugawa. They mistook a wholesale dealer ( Tonya ) and a kabu who was an agent for different buyers. The Bakufu selected 22 copper merchants to carry out transactions with the Dutch and Chinese at Nagasaki. Of these, 12 were residents of Osaka such as Rihei Izumiya and Kyuzaemon Osakaya; five from Sakai, two from Kyoto, including Ruemon Soga and Sumitomo, and one each from Wakayama, Bungo, and Nagasaki. As can be seen, authorized copper merchants lived in various regions. Because copper manufacturing was restricted to Osaka, those among the 22 merchants who did not do refining bought copper sticks manufactured by blowers in Osaka for export and sent these to Nagasaki. Those who wished to be engaged in foreign trade conducted their transactions under the name of an authorized member of the copper merchants' guild (Doya-Nakama). I assume that some were from Edo since there is no mention of any from Edo and there are ivory netsuke carved by Edo artists.
Digging in archives I found out that in 1711 the total amount of ivory imported into Nagasaki was 720 kg. That was not very much when one knows that roughly 300 kg were imported from Ryukyu to Kagoshima. However, importation into Nagasaki quickly increased, and in 1804 it was 2290 kgs of big tusks plus 9433 of small teeth that were imported by 11 Chinese, two Siamese, and one Dutch ship. The total turnover was restricted so that the export merchandise would not exceed the import and, the ships were not able retain merchandise or to refuse any in return.
At that time people were quite free to engage in self-cultivation as poets or artists. Was it the production of netsuke that boosted the import of ivory? If one looks into the papers dealing with the sale, he will discover that the Han did not buy regularly but sporadically. Twenty years intervened between two purchases by the Daimyo of Satsuma. In 1847 his representative bought 173 kgs and then nothing until the Meiji period. In 1841 he did not buy ivory but buffalo horn and 870 kgs of tortoises shells. First I wondered why, but since the Shimazu, Daimyo of Satsuma, had invaded Ryukyu I thought that ivory might come from there. So I went to Okinawa to find out since the Satsuma Han was the most powerful Daimyo’s domain in Kyushu. The Shimazu fief was 700.000 koku (a koku is roughly 150 Kgs of rice) and that was it extent until the Meiji period. How would such an important Daimyo not have some netsuke carvers? Most likely these carvers were very likely anonymous, being from the lowest class, or were not allowed to sign their work. I would have gone to Kagoshima but I did not have any contact there, so I went to Okinawa to find out if there had been a trade of ivory between Ryukyu and Kagoshima and I discovered that indeed there had been and that this trade started after the invasion of Ryukyu by the Shimazu warriors. At the time the amount of ivory sent to Kagoshima was 500 kin (斤), which is roughly 300 kg, which is more than what was going to Kyoto.
The Satsuma han was minting coins of higher gold and silver content which made them very desirable in business; since Ryukyu was doing a lot of trading with China and Japan, Japanese gold and silver made its way to China via Ryukyu. The Bakufu did not know exactly what was going on in spite of the spies sent. [Again, I have no idea what you are talking about here.] The Shimazu were very discrete about their trade and reported to Edo only what they wanted the Shogun to know and that even after the opening of Japan. In 1867, in Paris, Japan participated to an exhibition abroad for the first time. When the Japanese delegate led by the brother of the 14-year-old last Tokugawa Shogun Akitake arrived, they saw with astonishment a pavilion of Ryukyu with a flag with a cross in a circle. It was the Satsuma crest (fig.6). They were very upset and tried, without success, to persuade the organizers to incorporate it in a unified Japanese exhibit. In fact in 1866 Satsuma secretly sent a delegation to Paris and 400 Boxes of products, including lacquer, ivory, coral, pottery and calicos, under the name of « his highness Matsudaira Shuri no Daibu, Minamoto Shigehisa, Ruler of Ryukyu » and during the world exhibition it became « The Viceroy of Satsuma of Japan ». This is quite remarksble when one realizes that Tokugawa authorities did not tolerate open challenges to their power. However, it proves that the Bakufu was unable to survey or control everything.
It is likely that the carvers were forbidden to sign their netsuke since part of the trade between Ryukyu and Kagoshima was made without the knowledge of the Shogun. The Daimyo had all the Onmitsu (secret agents, spies sent by the Bakufu) killed. A large number of graves along the river Mimi gawa can be seen. The river could be crossed only by a ferry and every man with a Tokyo accent or expression was suspected and quickly killed if thought to be a spy.
From my point of view, it is reasonable to assume that a number of artists from Kyushu made Dutchmen and tall figures netsuke like this one (Fig.7). Subjects such as Wasobiyoe might have been carved in Kyushu since Swift’s novel Gulliver’s Travels was brought to Japan by Dutch traders in the first half of the 18th century and was translated into Japanese in 1774. Four small volumes were published under the title of Wasobiyoe since there was a special interest about travel novels for men traveling from Kagoshima to Ryukyu Other than Nagasaki and Hirado carvers, it is likely that some artists attached to the Satsuma Han did since in 1769Shimazu Shigehide asked the shogun to have the Dutchmen who should go to Edo come to visit him since his wife and mother in law would like to see what they looked like. I believe that Shimazu Shigehide had some artists making some drawings of them. Shigehide succeeded his father as head of Satsuma in 1755; he soon acquired an intense curiosity about Western affairs. He studied Dutch, the Dutch being the only Westerners then allowed into Japan, and patronized specialists in Western studies. In 1771 he had obtained shogunal permission to visit Nagasaki and retained a personal Dutch interpreter. He was the first Daimyo to do this and planned to open Satsuma to foreign shipping but held back fearing to provoke a war. In 1774 he founded a medical school and two doctor from Satsuma visited Tilsingh, So I imagine that when the Dutch came to visit him there was a painter and a carver present since he bought 133kg of ivory and twice as much was coming from Ryukyu because the king of Ryukyu wanted some Japanese Swords which were traded for ivory, coral and rare wood. I am convinced that he had some Dutchmen netsuke made. What would have been the need for ivory if it were not for some netsuke? Ivory may also have been used for plectrum, or lids for tea ceremony containers, or perhaps for brush stands or inrô. It will be necessary for me to spend sometime in Kagoshima to look into the Satsuma han (clan) archives. Up to now I only found one ivory carver officially belonging to the Satsuma Han (Fig. 11), Masayoshi. But there are 500 netsuke recorded in the Fuld list without distinction and some ivory netsuke said to be Nagoya when no ivory was ever bought by the Owari Daimyo. The ivory netsuke said to be Nagoya are in fact the work of Masayoshi who also signed as Takashijun after returning from China, where he stayed from 1878 to 1882 and made ivory carving for export, after which he went to Osaka, hired by Yamanaka to work for two years in tn the export trade. There was a Masayoshi in Edo as well.
. Netsuke such as this one (Fig.11) in my opinion was made in Kyushu, and this dragon (Fig. 14) perhaps in Kagoshima; Since Umimatsu was called Ryukyu coral and in chinese Kaisho and was imported with red coral. This tall magnificent figure carved in a big piece of umimatsu as well fig.15.It was also learned that umimatsu and coral were also imported from the Ryukyu to Satsuma. Other than umimatsu netsuke of traditional Iwami subjects, the vast majority of umimatsu netsuke were probably made in Kagoshima, as was this magnificent unsigned umimatsu netsuke (fig. 15) carved as a talisman against volcanic eruptions. There are also some kiseruzutsu that were made there in this material. When one actually holds a rough piece of it, one realizes how very difficult it is to carve this brittle substance, and one can understand and better appreciate netsuke carved from it. It takes a lot of talent to become proficient in carving this hard but fragile material. Umimatsu was smuggled into the Iwami province by concealing it in bundles of seaweed being traded for use in salads. It was deemed valuable enough to be traded for silver used in the minting of coins and bribe money for the Ryukyu Island trade in order to be able to get otherwise forbidden goods from China. There was substantial coastal trade between Kyushu and Iwami, The two kanji of “umi-matsu” were pronounced “miru-gaï.” “Miru” means the dark green-colored salad seaweed (codium fragile) in which the material was smuggled. Had it been called umimatsu, it would have been seized. Up to my discovery it was believed that the Iwami carver got their umimatsu from Oki.
Meinertzhagen records that Gechu was from Osaka, because he found some similarity with the work of Garaku. I do not see it the same way. There are only five netsuke recorded with a Gechu signature, one of which one is in an unrecorded material. If we do not find many netsuke with his signature, perhaps it is because he was from Kyushu where, as we have seen, the netsuke-shi did not sign their work. In the Soken Kisho it is written that no one knows where Gechu lived. Since the author, Inaba Tsuryu, was from Osaka, it stands to reason that he would have known and heard about Gechu if this carver had been from Osaka, so I believe that this carver might have been from Kagoshima. In my opinion, the netsuke in (figs.11 and a,b,c,d) are obviously from the same hand. One sees the same beard with the same very unusual open curls (a veritable signature), and the big ears, the smiles, and robes overloaded with decoration. These are faces of evident contentment. It would not surprise me to find out one day that Gechu was humorous man. As for the animals, the heads have most unusual floppy ears. The elongated Gechû faces contrast with the square faces of other netsuke from Kagoshima. They belong to three different artists as yet unidentified but obviously working in the same workshop. However, when looking at the face of the gama sennin —which is very typical of Kagoshima, with a face that is larger and squarer—there are some similarities, such as those same open beard curls, the mouth, and the eyes. One may wonder if this is indicative of an early stage before moving towards a more individual style. I believe the tall figure with a dog on his back mentioned earlier (fig. 11) is not a Dutchman, as he does not wear European clothing; instead he wears a coat with a dragon design that is obviously Chinese, and Chinese shoes. Moreover, he holds a drug powder jar in his left hand. In fact, it might be Weï Boyang with the jar that he used to make an elixir of longevity, which he tried first on his faithful dog who accompanied him. As the story goes, at first the dog seemed to succumb but soon revived, so Wei took the drug and ascended to heaven.
It is not strange, therefore, to find that so few netsuke are signed by Kyushu artists and that Tsuji, a vassal of the Kumamoto daimyo, hid his signature inside the himotoshi. Perhaps, then, we need to consider the subjects and the material, as well. Take, for example, this netsuke (fig. 16) depicting Zhuge Liang, a renowned strategist and statesman of the period of the Three Kingdoms. He holds a crane feather fan. The netsuke is carved out of maki (Podocarpus sinensis), a wood found only in the Ryukyu Islands and on the west coast of Kyushu (frequented by migratory birds) but not in the rest of Japan. This Kyushu netsuke of a square-faced man with a moustache and beard and with such a manner of sleeve drapery is reminiscent of Tsuji. I would love to know why Joly described this subject as Gomo, one of the twenty-four paragons of filial piety. Joe Earle questioned the Joly attribution but did not offer an alternative. The creation of the Chinese Quarter of Nagasaki (the Tojin Yashiki) in 1689—the population of which had risen to twenty percent of the Nagasaki population by 1788—was accompanied by the arrival in 1731 of numerous painters and men of letters who propounded the ethos of Ming. This would explain a certain number of Chinese subjects.
Matsuura Kiyoshi, the daimyo of Hirado (1775–1806), was a collector of netsuke, inro, doran, ojime, and kinchaku. Each ensemble was carefully chosen to make a cohesive ensemble that people admired during his travels. He had more than a hundred pieces that he wore and changed according to his whim. He said that people rushed to see what he was wearing. He kept a diary in which he wrote faithfully at 11:00 p.m. each evening (the aptly entitled Kasshi Yawa (Eleventh Hour Chronicles)). In it, he mentions very few artists. The whole was much greater than the sum of the parts. It is obvious that, for him, the individual craftsman was far less important than it is to us today. It seems impossible that there are only five signed pieces among the over one hundred pieces of this great collector. Of the five, two are kagamibuta. One of them, in shitan, is signed “Soyo” on the metal plaque decorated with Benkei. It is attached to a doran with Benkei and Ushiwaka (the name given to the young Yoshitsune). Soyo died in 1690 and was the famous founder of the Yokoya school. It is perfectly logical that artists working in metal are mentioned because they had a certain prestige as manufacturers of sword furniture. Moreover, Matsuura mentions a katabori netsuke signed “Miwa” depicting Shoki carrying a mask of an oni in his sack. Miwa was an artist quite celebrated in this era. As he mentions only these artists, it is apparent that signatures did not have the importance that they have today; otherwise, he would have mentioned Masanao and Tomotada instead of merely “an ivory tiger licking its paw.” Obviously, this is a Kyoto piece, but he gave no indication that it was a signed piece. It is a safe bet that at the time that a Tomotada signature was inscribed, it was the signature of a workshop. Do not be offended: all paintings signed Brueghel were not painted by him. At that time, a name in and of itself did not mean much and may have served several generations of students who were not necessarily the son of their master but were adopted by him as apprentices.
Only someone who had actually been in Nagasaki and saw this custom would have been able to carve a netsuke representing a Malay servant of the Dutch candling eggs, or a sailor who manned a cannon, sitting and holding a square porcelain wine bottle with a pewter stopper. Such netsuke probably had to have been made in Kyushu, because these sailors did not otherwise leave
the ship, and I do not see how a Honshu carver would have been able to imagine their unique cap and uniform (Fig. 17). It is high time that we research matters more carefully before making unwarranted attributions. It is time to revise some old concept and do some more research taking into account Kyushu which got more ivory than Kyoto through Kagoshima.
 A type of sagemono resembling a large inro or a tobaco-ire and will be the subject of a future article.
. A kagamibuta of Ushiwaka signed Soyo is in the collection of the Boston Museum, probably by the same artist and described there as 18th century. In a prior issue of the Journal (Vol. 27/4, Winter 2007, p. 41), I wrote about my meeting with a descendant of a boat owner in Hakata who once wore a Miwa netsuke of a fugu that has been handed down to the descendant through the generations.
A la recherche de Gechū牙虫
Avant de découvrir il y a cinq ans, à la bibliothèque de la Diète au Japon, des documents sur l'ivoire importé à Nagasaki, je pensais que les pièces dites de Kyoto étaient sculptées dans cette zone, mais c'était une grosse erreur. N'oubliez pas qu'il y avait bien d'autres choses faites en ivoire que des netsuke, et que la poudre d'ivoire fut aussi utilisée comme médicament détoxiquant et fébrifuge.
Il est difficile de comprendre pourquoi le monde du netsuke a oublié l'importance de Kyūshū comme berceau de la civilisation et du commerce japonais, ignorant le port de Kagoshima. Si bon nombre de netsuke furent vendus à Kyoto la quantité d’ivoire brut arrivant à Kyoto au 18e siècle était faible comparée à celle arrivant à Kagoshima. En fait, Satsuma disposait de plus d’ivoire que Nagasaki car le roi de Ryūkyū devait livrer à son suzerain le daïmyō de Satsuma 300 kg d’ivoire en tribut chaque année et il est évident qu’il y eut un commerce non répertorié qui n’était pas négligeable. Je fus étonné de découvrir que la quantité d'ivoire brut arrivant à Nagasaki, pour tout le Japon au 18e siècle, était très inférieure comparée à ce qui arrivait à Kagoshima.
Quelques informations nécessaires pour comprendre pourquoi certain Netsuke, prétendu de Kyoto, n'ont pas été sculptés à Kyoto dans la première moitié du 18e siècle.
Nagasaki était gouverné directement de la capitale par deux bugyō nommés pour l’administrer alternativement. Le shogun n’avait donnait une licence qu’à huit armateurs de Nagasaki , si bien qu’un commerce s’était établit entre les Japonais chrétiens exilés à Formose, les pirates et Satsuma. Une communauté de marchands chinois resta active à Bōnotsu(坊津町) (fig. 4) où étaient basé les pirates japonais, son littoral sinueux a permis un discret commerce, encouragé ou du moins sur lequel le seigneur de Satsuma ferma les yeux, ce qui permit au18ème siècle une activité marchande chinoise continue sur la côte de Satsuma malgré les politiques de restrictions maritimes du shogounat.
En 1635 le Japon se ferme, il est interdit de sortir ou de revenir et en 1639 seul le port de Nagasaki est ouvert aux Hollandais et aux Chinois pour un nombre limité de bateaux avec la nécessité d’avoir un « shinpaï »(license de commerce). Au 18e siècle le but de la V.O.C. était d'obtenir du cuivre, c'est pourquoi ils apportaient une grande qualité de bois, mais pas tellement d'ivoire. En fait il y avait beaucoup plus d'ivoire importé à Amsterdam utilisé pour des objets de luxe.
Quant au commerce avec les bateaux chinois, la majeure partie d'entre eux venaient de Zhapu乍埔 le Port de Commerce principal, en raison de son emplacement en eau profonde, dans la baie de Hangzhou d’où partaient six jonques impériales pendant l'Ère Qing (commençant en 1636.) Cette région de delta était très commode pour rassembler de bonnes soies et d'autres marchandises pour l'expédition, aussi bien que pour vendre des produits importés du Japon. Quelques bateaux venaient du Viêt-Nam du Nord ( 交趾Jap. Kōshi) qui était sous domination chinoise .
En 1711 : 720 kg d’ivoire arrivaient à Nagasaki dont 432 kg par des bateaux chinois, et le reste par un bateau hollandais; le tout était vendu aux enchères à des marchands de Kyoto, Sakai et d’ailleurs, pour tout le Japon;. En 1794 le vaisseau hollandais Erfprijns en apportait 82 kg et les Chinois 977 kg. et en 1795 le West Cappelle débarqua 240 kg d’ivoire alors que les Chinois en apportaient dix fois plus. Si nous cherchons toutes les importations des bateaux chinois nous pouvons voir que parfois ils n'ont pas apporté d'ivoire par exemple : en 1736 aucun ivoire n'a été importé, alors qu’en 1737 il y avait 600斤 =360kg et en 1738 seulement 48kg. Puis en 1739 seulement 198kg et en 1741 un bateau en apportait 80 斤 le 17 mars. En 1745 la quantité était de 1352kg. Et en 1753 nous remarquons que l'importation d'ivoire était 800 斤 et celle de l'ébène 20.000 斤. La plus grande arrivée d'ivoire fut entre novembre 1786 et nov. 1787 avec 5.715Kg Puis les importations chinoises décolèrent et augmentèrent considérablement.peut être est ce à partir de cette date qu'un certain nombre de netsuke en ivoire ont été sculpté à Kyoto.
Quand on regarde les visages des œuvres de Gechū (fig.2) qui sont si différentes des autres netsuke-shi on se demande où il a puisé son inspiration. Les netsuke représentant des hommes sculptés par Gechū ont des visages allongés avec de grands yeux et des arcades sourcilières très marquées, de grandes oreilles ainsi qu’une barbe bouclée très caractéristique et un nez busqué. Il se pourrait qu’il ait été influencé par un masque de Gigaku comme celui-ci (fig. 3) de l’un des serviteurs du Roi Suiko 酔胡王dont le nom qualifie un étranger saoul. Ces masques ont les traits communs au niveau de la forme de la tête quoique chaque masque porte des traits de visage particuliers, ils ont de grand yeux avec des sourcils levés très accentués, celui-ci a un nez large et busqué et de grandes oreilles.. Ce type de masque date de l’époque Nara, avec une origine Coréen du royaume Kudara qui était l’un des trois royaumes de ce pays. Ce masque pouvait être chez son maître le daimyō qui pouvait être un amateur de gagaku et de bugaku qui sont les plus anciennes musiques et danse de cour au monde.
Mais il n’est pas exclu que Gechū 牙虫 ait été un sculpteur chinois ramené au Japon à la suite d’un raid en effet le premier kanji 牙 de son nom se lit "Ge" ou "kiba en japonais et veux dire défense ou dent et se lit "Fang " en chinois; hors à l’époque des Tang il y avait une association d’artistes qui portait ce nom.
A la fin du 16e siècle Toyotomi Hideyoshi décide de conquérir la Chine et la Corée, Il débarque à Pusan avec 200 000 hommes et fait une conquête facile grâce à l’effet de surprise et leurs armes à feu, l’armée Coréenne étant peu nombreuse et mal préparée; de nombreux artisans furent alors emmenés en esclavage au Japon. Coutume qui a continué au 18ème lors de diverses incursions de pirates dont parle Tenjiku Tokubeï dans ses mémoires de 1707. Après avoir conquis la Corée, Hideyoshi se heurta aux armées chinoises. Mais il meurt et ses troupes sont refoulées vers le sud et se rembarquèrent pour le Japon.
Par ailleurs il a pu être ou avoir très bien connu un descendant des Perses, ceux ci ayant souvent des nez busqués, qui avaient fui face aux attaques des musulmans qui, au milieu du 7ème siècle. avaient conquis l'Afghanistan et une partie de l'Inde à l’ Ouest de l'Indus. Pour de nombreux siècles, ce fut la limite orientale du pouvoir musulman.
En effet lors de la conquête islamiste de la Perse, qui était le pays le plus cultivé de la route de la soie, le Prince Pirooz s’enfuit avec ses soldats et se réfugia en Chine où il fut bien accueilli, car sa sœur avait été mariée à l’Empereur Tang,. C’est ainsi que cette nouvelle colonie perse rescapée de la conquête arabe fut autorisée à faire souche dans 28 villages autour de la capitale, où elle recréa, avec l’accord de l’Empereur Tang, une mini-cour impériale perse en exil. Pirooz (fig.5) devint même général de l’armée impériale des Tang et sa nombreuse descendance a fait souche dans l’Empire chinois ce qui explique les nez busqués.
A la fin du 16e siècle Toyotomi Hideyoshi ayant réussi à unifier le Japon, voulut réaliser un rêve qu'il caressait depuis longtemps : la conquête de la Chine. En 1592, il débarque à Pusan avec 200 000 hommes équipés d’armes à feu et fait une conquête facile de la Corée. Après avoir conquis la Corée, et envoyé au Japon bon nombre de potiers et autres artistes Hideyoshi se heurta aux armées chinoises, S'il avait utilisé la corruption un moyen qu’il connaissait bien, il aurait eu une chance de battre les chinois. Mais il mourut et ses troupes furent refoulées vers le sud et se rembarquèrent pour le Japon. En 1635 un décret interdit au japonais de sortir du pays. En 1639 Nagasaki est le seul port ouvert aux chinois et aux hollandais pour un nombre limité de bateaux.. Le domaine de Satsuma étant très riche grâce à ce commerce illicite et celui avec Ryūkyū il est étonnant que personne n’ait pensé que ce fief devait avoir eu des artistes.
La plupart des personnages sculptés à Kagoshima ont des visages proportionnellement plus grands que la normale souvent assez carré avec de grands yeux et des nez épatés (fig. 6). Mais quand ils sont l’œuvre de Gechu les visages sont plus allongés avec de grands yeux et des arcades sourcilières très marquées, de grandes oreilles ainsi qu’ une barbe bouclée très caractéristique on peut noter aussi un nez busqué inhabituel chez un asiatique.
Mais tout ceci n’est peut-être que pure élucubration, car on trouve également des hollandais fait probablement à Nagasaki qui ont eux aussi des nez busqués (fig. 7), ce qui fut le cas probablement de certains Hollandais, car le sculpteur n’a pas pu inventer ce menton en galoche proéminant et recourbé vers l’avant de ce visage aux pommettes saillantes, ce pourrait être un descendant des Habsbourgs qui avait ce trait héréditaire et qui au 18ème siècle régnaient sur les Pays Bas autrichiens.
Excusez toutes ces élucubrations qui sont basées sur des conjectures et de longues recherches, mais je n’ai pu trouver de documents sur cet artiste, au style bien particulier et dont l’auteur du Sōken Kishō nous dit ignoré l’origine. Si l’on pouvait trouver sa tombe ou le temple où il fut enterré, on trouverait des documents le concernant mais à Kagoshima de nombreux temples ont été détruit, suite à la rébellion appelé «Seinan senso » contre le gouvernement qui supprimait les privilèges des samuraï au début de l’époque Meiji, et je n’ai rien trouvé. Hors il est évident qu’au 18ème siècle un groupe d’au moins cinq sculpteurs travaillaient l’ivoire à Kagoshima sous l’égide des daimyō Shimazu. Ce-ci nécessiterait des recherches, mais je doute que l’on trouve la réponse à cette question: Qui étaient-ils?
J’espère que cela incitera quelqu’un à continuer mes recherches pour valider ou modifier les théories présentées. Comme les documents sont tous en japonais, ceci est une invitation afin qu’ils relèvent le défi, car il serait intéressant de trouver des documents pour apporter la preuve de ce que j’avance ; et il serait bon qu’ils se penchent sérieusement sur la question car avec le peu d’ivoire arrivant à Nagasaki dans la première moitié du 18ème siècle, et j’ai consulté tous les documents concernant les importations, il est hors de question de pouvoir affirmer que certaines pièces aient pu être fabriquées à Kyoto. A noter qu’un document trouvé sur internet bien que correct pour le 19ème siècle est totalement faux et une pure spéculation sans aucune base sur le 18ème siècle : « Je suppose qu'il y avait 5t d’importation par année pendant le 18ème siècle en moyenne et pense au volume total d'importation de tout le 18ème siècle avec 500t(5t x100 ans) de défenses d'ivoire … » nous dit-il
江戸時代(18 世紀)の象牙の輸入量は、数百kgから 10 トン台であったことは既に 第1章において示した。本章では、18 世紀を通じて平均して年間 5 トンの輸入があっ たと仮定して、18 世紀中の総輸入量を 500 トン(5 トン×100 年)と考える。
Le Sōken Kishō publié en 1781 fut le premier livre à nous donner une liste de netsuke-shi. Si nous trouvons un netsuke portant la signature d’un artiste figurant dans cette liste et s’il semble vieux on le considère comme 18ème. Mais le petit monde du netsuke semble avoir peur de reconnaître que les indicateurs d'âge et le style de ces netsuke racontent une histoire différente de celui que nous lisons dans des livres. Le problème, est la différence dans le style qui me fait penser qu'ils furent sculptés par différentes personnes. Certaines signatures sont très facile à reproduire peut-être même la majorité. Je crois qu'un certain nombre de netsuke ont été fait à Kagoshima qui recevait plus d'ivoire au 18ème siècle et l’auteur du Sōken Kishō visiblement l’ignorait. Voici 3 pièces signé Gechū: (Fig. 8, 9, 10)
En ce qui concerne les animaux on trouve des chiens avec une tête humoristique, aux poils bouclés, les oreilles tombantes et le nez relevé fig.8 Ils sont très different de ceux de Kyoto qui sont souvent du type lévrier.
Les tigres ont une queue qui s’amincit en serpentant vers la mâchoire inférieure, une tête joufflue, des sourcils ovales et des oreilles différentes (fig. 10) que l'on peut comparer avec ce tigre de Okatomo un artiste de Kyoto (fig. 11).
Les shishi (fig. 9) sont plus volumineux que les pièces de Kyôto signées. De plus, ils sont plus élaborés dans les boucles des poils se terminant par de petites boules sans aucune mèche pointue, la bouche est très typique, les lèvres sont ourlées et les oreilles ont la forme d'un "S" avec une cambrure sur la première courbe. Les pièces de Kyôto sont plus petites comme ce shishi (Fig. 11 ) typique des pièces de Kyôto avec des mèches de poils pointues à la queue et à la crinière., Ces dernières étant caractéristique des pièces de Kyoto, toutefois avec une exception les Shishi signé Mitsuharu (fig. 12)
. Bon nombre de ces pièces semble être antérieure à 1781, cependant certaines ne le sont pas et ne sont pas de la même main . Personnellement je ne pense pas qu’il ait eu des élèves. Quelqu’un devrait faire quelques recherches pour trouver le temple qui abrite sa sépulture et de ce fait trouver des renseignements sur sa vie, car il n’est pas exclu qu’il ait commençait à Satsuma et plus tard être parti s’établir à Kyoto car son style est très proche de celui des sculpteurs de Satsuma comme on peut le constater quand on voit ce chien portant sa signature (fig.13), à moins que l’un d’eux ait utilisé son nom car il était célèbre à Kyoto comme c'est le cas pour les pièces signées Tomotada (Fig. 14) signature apogriphe utilisée par de nombreux sculpteurs à diverses époques . Je pense qu’il y avait à Kagoshima une fabrique de netsuke avec des artistes dont on ne connait pas les noms mais dont on peut identifier le travail. D’ailleurs avait-il un nom? A cette époque là certain en avait pas.
Pour moi il ne fait aucun doute qu’il y avait aussi des laqueurs au service des Daïmyō de Satsuma et cet inro-gaine (fig.15) en est la preuve car il porte le ‘’mon’’(blason) des Shimazu sur la gaine dans laquelle se cache une scène érotique.
vrai. fausse signature
Before discovering five years ago, in the Kokai toshokan (National Diet library). Documents on the goods imported in Nagasaki fig.18, I thought that the so called Kyoto netsuke were carved there, but it was a big mistake. Do not forget that there were many other things made of ivory like the lid of the cha-ire and that ivory powder was used as a detoxifying and antipyretic. Here are some necessary information to understand why some so called Kyoto netsuke were not carved in Kyoto in the first half of the 18th century. There was some trade between the Japanese Christian exiled in Formosa and Siam, the pirates and a community of Chinese active in Bōnotsu(坊津町) since its sinuous coast allowed it and the Daïmyō turned a blind eye.
Nagasaki was ruled directly from the Shogunal capital, two alternating bugyō who were appointed to administer it. If we look up the trade in the 18th century we discover that the aim of the V.O.C. was to obtain copper and that is why they imported high quality Sappan wood but not so much ivory. In fact there was much more ivory imported in Amsterdam to be used for luxury objects. Beside the elephant ivory there were some Walrus and Narwhal which were secondary catch from the whale hunters. Some went to Japan by Dutch boats. As far as the trade with Chinese boats is concerned most of those were coming from Zhapu乍埔in Zhejiang, the main Chinese Trading Port, due to its location in Hangzhou bay and the deep water harbor, which enjoyed six imperial junks to Japan during Qing Era (The last dynasty beginning in 1636.) This delta region was very convenient for collecting fine silks and other goods for shipping, as well as for selling products imported from Japan. A few boats were coming from North-Vietnam ( 交趾Jap. Kōshi) which was under Chinese domination. Another thing worth remembering is that a number of Japanese Christian went to settle in Siam and built a town along the sea from where they made some trade with Japan, the best known is Yamada Nagamasa.
After 1715 the volume of trade was shrinking with the necessity of a trade license (shinpaï) for each boat. After the checking of the items of the freight a selling price was decided and two days after a bidding began, the goods were handed to the highest bidding merchant. If we look up all the import, Chinese boats did not import ivory into Japan during every 18th-century trip. For example, in 1736, no ivory was recorded as imported; in 1737 there was 600斤 (kin)=360kg and in 1738 only 48kg. Then in 1739 just 198kg and in 1741, on the 17th of March, one boat brought 80斤. By 1745 the amount was 1352kg. and in 1753 we notice that when the import of ivory was 800斤by contrast, the ebony was 20.000斤,an anstounding ratio. The biggest arrival of ivory was between November 1786 and Nov. 1787 with 5.715Kg. Then from 1/12 1787 to Nov 1788 the first Chinese boat brought 1480斤 which is 888kg of ivory and the second 4684斤 which is 2810kg, it remains unclear whether this massive influx was due to the death of Tokugawa Iyeharu and the change of one or more of the many restrictive laws. When you consider the amount of ivory coming to Nagasaki compare to what was available in Satsuma we understand that a number of netsuke said to be Kyoto piece were in fact carved in Satsuma to be sold in Kyoto. Since Satsuma invaded Ryūkyū in 1609 the king was sending 300kg of ivory as tribute every year so that Satsuma was getting much more ivory than Kyoto but were not allowed to sell it outside the han. The main Satsuma carver was Gechū 牙虫and the other might not had a name.
When we look at the work of Gechū, which is so different from other Netsuke artists, One has to wonder from where he got his inspiration. It might be possible that he was influenced by a mask of Gigaku such as the one shown in Fig. 1 (one of the servants of King Suiko_(酔胡王 ). These masks have a common style in the form of the head although every one has different features. Their faces have large eyes with accentuated raised eyebrows and the one shown also has a wide hooked nose and elongated ears. This type of mask dates from the Nara Period having a Korean origin from the Kudara Kingdom, one of the three Kingdoms of old Korea.
Such a mask might have been seen by Gechū in his masters castle as many Daimyo of the time were amateur performers of Gigaku and Bugaku which were popular forms of court entertainment at the time. It is conceivable that Gechū 牙虫 was a Chinese carver taken to Japan from one of the incursions made by pirate Japanese boat. The first kanji 牙 of his name indeed reads "Ge " or "Kiba" in Japanese meaning a tooth or tusk. This is read as “Fang” in Chinese and, there was an artists’ association which bore this name in the time of the Tang Dynasty, Gechū could have been one of these Chinese and may have been familiar with the Persians (if not one himself) which would explain the aquiline nose of his figures. Many Persians headed east to escape the muslim attacks in the 7th Century which saw their territory expand into Afghanistan and part of India west of the Indus which they held for a number of centuries. Indeed, during the conquest of Persia, which was the most cultivated country along the Silk Road.
A young Prince Pirooz escaped with his army and took refuge in China where he was welcomed as his sister had married the Tang Emperor. Having lost their lands to the Arab conquest, the surviving Persian immigrants were allowed to establish 28 permanent villages around the Canton capital where they recreated, with the permission of Emperor Tang, an Imperial Persian mini-court in exile. Prince Pirooz (fig. 5) even became a general of the Imperial Tang army. His numerous descendants might well be the origin of the aquiline nose in the Chinese Empire.
At the end of the 16th Century Toyotomi Hideyoshi had intentions of conquering both Korea and China and during his incursions into Korea numerous craftsmen, such as potters and artistes, were removed back to Japan forcibly. This continued into the 18th Century with pirate raids as reported by TenjikuTokubei in his memoirs of 1707. Having conquered Korea, Hideyoshi collided with the Chinese armies. if he had used bribery something he was well acquainted with, he could have had a good chance to defeat the Chinese, but death of Hideyoshi resulted in the end of this misfortune and his troops were repulsed southward and they reembarked for Japan. In 1635 an edict forbade the Japanese to go out of the country or to return. In 1639 Nagasaki was the only port open to Chinese and Dutch for a limited number of boats. As the Shogunate had only granted 8 licenses to Nagasaki ship owners for foreign trade, other enterprising individuals started business between the Japanese Christian exiled in Formosa (Taiwan) and Siam where they settled and trade with pirates and Satsuma Han (fiefdom of Satsuma). A community of Chinese merchants remained active at Bōnotsu (坊津町)a base of Japanese pirates, its winding shoreline enabled secret trading encouraged or at least condoned by the Lord of Satsuma Han and were allowed to trade all along the Satsuma coast, despite the maritime restrictions imposed by the Shogunate. The domain of Satsuma being very rich thanks to this illicit trade and that with Ryūkyū it is surprising that nobody thought that this fief had some artists.
Most of the netsuke carved in Kagoshima have faces proportionally bigger than normal and often square with big eyes and a flat nose fig. 6. But when they are the work of Gechū, the facial features are more stretched out with large eyes, very marked eyebrow arches, big ears and the very characteristic curly beard. The aquiline nose, it should be noted, is quite different to the typical Asian nose.
Of course, this could all be down to wild imagination! We also find figures of foreigners made(probably) in Nagasaki which also exhibit the aquiline nose possibly copied from an actual foreigner such as a Dutchman (a large contingent of the westerners there) with a prominent clog chin, which bends back towards the face and high cheekbones fig.7, as it is something that the carver is unlikely to have been able to invent. I might mention that the Hapsburgs, who reigned over the Austrian Low Countries in the 18th Century, had this hereditary facial feature. It should also be remembered that very few Japanese of this period had actually seen a westerner. Apart from those living in and near Nagasaki and the Oranda yuki (Maruyama prostitutes). Most though had to rely on woodblock prints and drawings depicting them.
Please excuse my wild imaginings! However, they are based on many years of research plus a few guesses. I have been unable to find any documentation on this artist; the author of the Sōken Kishō even tells us that he ignored his origins. If it were possible to find a grave or the temple where he was buried, we might just find documents concerning him. Unfortunatly however, numerous temples were destroyed in Kagoshima during the rebellion which took place when the government did away with the samurai privileges at the beginning of Meiji Period. So far I have been unable to find anything. Nevertheless, it is obvious that in the 18th Century a group of at least 5 carvers worked in ivory in Kagoshima for the Daimyō Shimazu. These would await future research but I am doubtful that we shall ever know the answer to this question: Who are they?
I might also add that the Province of Satsuma became rich due to the trade with China via the Ryūkyū Islands. These islands were easily invaded by Shimazu Tadatsune in 1609 as the King of Ryūkyū did not have a military force worthy of the name. From then on, the islands were under Chinese and Japanese domination as the king of Ryūkyū carry on paying his tribute to China and never let them know that he had been conquered by Shimazu. My fervent wish is that someone will carry on my research to either validate or disprove the theories I have put forward. As all the relevant documents are in Japanese, this is an invitation to Japanese collectors to take up the challenge as it would be very interesting to find documents to prove the assumptions I have put forward. It would be good if someone was to seriously deal with this question because, with so little ivory arriving in Nagasaki in the first half of the 18th Century, it is out of the question (and I have consulted all the documents concerning ivory imports) that so many ivory netsuke were carved in Kyoto.
I must note that I did find one reference on the internet that, although correct for the 19th Century, is totally false and pure speculation for the 18th Century. It says, “I suppose that there were 5 tons of imports a year during the 18th Century on average and I think the total volume of ivory tusks imported for all the 18th Century was 500 tons (5 tons X 100 years).
江戸時代(18 世紀)の象牙の輸入量は、数百kgから 10 トン台であったことは既に 第1章において示した。本章では、18 世紀を通じて平均して年間 5 トンの輸入があっ たと仮定して、18 世紀中の総輸入量を 500 トン(5 トン×100 年)と考える。
From the Sōken Kishō published in 1781 netsuke artists were mentioned in writing for the first time and If we find a netsuke with one of those names listed in the Sōken Kishō, and if it looks old it is considered as late 18th Century. But the netsuke world seems apprehensive to acknowledge that the age indicators and style of these netsuke tell a story different from the one that we read in books. The question, is the difference in style which make me think that they come from more than a single person carving career. Some signature are quite easy to reproduce maybe even the majority. I believe that a number of netsuke were made in Kagoshima where more ivory was coming in the 18th century. Some unsigned like this Shishi and the Sōken Kishō author did not know. The shishi made in Kagoshima have very elaborate curly hairs ending in balls without any sharp lock or pointed hairs, they have hemmed lips and ears in an “S” shape, compare with this Okatomo (fig. 11)
Here are 3 netsuke signed Gechu who was the master of this “school”: (fig. 8 , 9 , 10)
As far as animals are concerned we find dogs with floppy ears, turned up nose and curly hair (fig.. 20)
Tigers have a tail which gets thinner by winding towards the lower jaw, a more round and chubby head with oval eyebrows the skin and ears are quite different (fig. 10)
However we find one exception with the Shishi signed Mitsuharu that you can see further down.
If I think about this particular name…Mitsuharu. Some netsuke with this name look pre 1781, however some don’t and maybe even the majority appear later, I don’t think they are coming from the same hand and I don’t think he had a workshop. The question, is the difference in age more than a single person carving career. Someone should do some researches to find in which temple he was buried and then find some information about his life since he might have been from Satsuma and later moved to Kyoto as his style is very close to the Satsuma carvers as you can see with this dog (fig. 13), unless there was a Satsuma carver using his name, that is another possibility since a number of netsuke signed Tomotada (fig.14) were carved in Satsuma to be sold in Kyoto like this shishi. The signature Tomotada has been used for many years by different carvers.
Also, the netsuke world is apprehensive when it comes to early dates. Mitsuharu is early because his name is in the Sōken Kishō and 18th Century is early in the eyes of most, though I believe there was a thriving netsuke industry in existence in Kagoshima before the Sōken Kishō and the author did not know anything about what was going on there. We might not have their names but with some study we can identify the work of the Satsuma carvers.