Netsuke. Ivory and bone , early 20th century, Japan. The RöhsskaMuseum, of Design, Fashion and Decorative Arts, Sweden.
According to legend the islands of Japan rest on a giant fish, Namazu, whose all-too-lively quivering causes devastating earthquakes. The god Kadori Myojin is depicted on this netsuke as an ape riding on Namazu. In order to prevent catastrophe, he tries to keep the unruly fish calm with the aid of a magic gourd. Originally a simple piece of wood with two holes for fastening cords, the netsuke’s design and motif universe has developed more and more. Skillful sculptors and craftsmen developed the netsuke from merely being a useful article into an “objet d’art.