Inspiring Japanese art and design, £14.99
Height: 4.500 cm
Bequeathed by Oscar C. Raphael
Asia JA 1945.10-17.521
Ivory netsuke: foxes
Edo period, 18th-19th century AD
The fox has always played a large part in Japanese mythology. It is believed to have strong magical powers which are usually used for evil ends. Foxes are believed to be very long-lived. At the age of one hundred they can possess human beings, or take the form of a woman to lead other humans astray. The fox Kimmo Kiubi no Kitsune is said to have bewitched an Indian and a Chinese ruler, and the Japanese Toba Tenno. She finally changed into a deadly stone which was smashed into fragments by a virtuous priest. At the age of one thousand they become white or golden and grow nine tails. There are tales of foxes taking revenge, but equally there are tales of the grateful fox.
This piece also shows the key pattern associated with the fox as the messenger of the god of Harvest, Inari, the only form of the fox which performs good deeds.