Ivory statue of a falconer
From Tokyo, Japan
Meiji era, late 19th century AD
After the Meiji Restoration in 1868, many changes occurred within Japan that forced craftsmen to adapt their skills or change trades completely. For example, the new preference for western dress over the traditional Japanese kimono meant that there was no longer a demand for ivory netsuke. At the same time, a vast overseas market for traditional Japanese arts and crafts developed, and some carvers turned to producing purely ornamental sculptures suitable for this western market. This piece was probably made by a member of the Tokyo Ivory Sculptors' Association, which was set up by the government to ensure that such skills were not lost.
The masterly carving reproduces every fold of the falconer's costume. Note particularly the suggestion of the textured pattern of his outer coat, the straw of his gaiters and boots, the individual strands of the cord and the soft plumage of the bird.
L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)
L. Smith and V. Harris, Japanese decorative arts from (London, The British Museum Press, 1982)