AFNetsuke wrote:Martyn, I couldn't commit to a date for this piece. What features are you seeing that might push it into the 20th century?
The hue and colours of the paint. I've not seen this before late 19thc. Saishiki doesn't hold up well to 300 years either. IMO most Shuzan originals probably wouldn't display much Gesso any more. Right there is a very good reason why painting "functional" netsuke never really took off.
Around the end of the 19thC, early 20thC, there was a strong revival pieces created in the style of Shuzan (saishiki). The best of these saishiki 20thc artists is probably considered as Tessai (I understand his formulae for his aged looking Gesso was not shared and remains unknown). However - although Tessai created saishiki pieces to look old - his carving style was original. On this basis I suspect his aged technique was related to the sabi aesthetic rather than to try and suggest a Shuzan piece.
The best of the carvers during this period that replicated Shuzan's models was Mondo. He carved some very powerful bold revival netsuke easily mistaken for the carving style of Shuzan. Note - he couldn't nail aged gesso like Tessai could.
An interesting article on Lacquer revival (triggered by Zeshin influences) by Jan Dees. Enjoy