Miniature ox netsuke comes to Bonhams with $37,000 valuation

A miniature carving of an ox by Izumiya Tomotada is among the highlights of Bonhams' upcoming netsuke sale.

18th century master Tomotada's minute carvings are much coveted. This 5cm wide example, believed to be unique, is expected to sell for up to £30,000 ($37,500).

Ox netsuke

Exquisite and valuable - Tomotada's 18th century ox carving

It forms part of the Julius and Arlette Katchen Collection of Fine Netsuke: Part II sale on May 10. The Katchens collected netsuke for more than 50 years, and this sale is testament to their keen eye.

Netsuke are small carved ornaments first crafted in Japan in the 17th century.

They were traditionally used to attach purses to kimonos, but are now in demand more for their artistry than their function.

Also on offer is a 19th century puppy by Kaigyokusai Masatsugu, which is even smaller than the ox. It too has a £30,000 valuation. Julius Katchen bought it for £945 at an English auction in 1964.

“Netsuke have long been collected by people who appreciate Japanese skill and creativity and we are delighted to offer yet more wonderful and varied examples," said Suzannah Yip, Bonhams' head of Japanese art.

"Building on the outstanding success of our Part I sale last November which achieved the second-highest price ever paid at auction for a netsuke - £221,000 for another carving of a dog - we hope to set a new benchmark for this important segment of the global market for East Asian art.”

The netsuke world record stands at £265,250 ($398,000), set in 2011 by an 18th century lion-dog, or "shishi". 

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