Circa 1980

Signed above the himotoshi in the back inside a gold cartouche ‘MHB’. Carved from walrus tusk, perhaps the only time Michael Birch carved from this material, and depicting a very amusing yawning Daruma, with a large cavernous mouth and precisely carved tongue on the inside. The squinting eyes and stifled yawn create a wry expression. The composition is tactile and ideally shaped as a netsuke and the material is superbly polished, gleaming and with a beautiful grain, especially to the backside which shows the playful nature of the material, which was a constant source of inspiration to Michael Birch.


H. 4 cm


The archetype of this netsuke, which was a special order, can be seen in Birch, JKL (2013) The Art & Life of Michael Birch, pp. 28f. The first netsuke of this type was carved by Michael Birch from a billiard ball and as a gift to his father, in return for a childhood gift of the same subject. When comparing the manner of the nose to the three netsuke depicted in the book, one can see the shunga undertones – when Michael Birch was asked about it, he smilingly denied any intent.


Collection John and Donnie Hawley

Rare Shunga netsuke of Daruma by Michael Henry Birch (1926-2008)