neilholton wrote:We have two rats. I think today/yesteryear they might have been described as late 18th Century or certainly of similar age. I think I would suggest that perhaps the same school made them but they display a significant difference in age, enough to suggest a generation of difference.
Let us say for argument sake, the unsigned version is 18th Century. How old does that make the signed?
Ok I'll bite. I guess you want us to list properties we would use to age these examples. I'll start with the Rat.
I predominately use material age. Everything stems from that for me (I put the jigsaw together over the top).
With the second rat the material has developed a much deeper patina. Putting wear aside (which is only an indication of use at best), the material looks much older.
Building on top of the idea of using the lowest common denominator (examples elsewhere in art of Ivory that does have exact documented age). When I look at other examples of ivory, that shares similar material characteristics - I then observe the carving work and techniques. This allows me to build on top of the material basis, an idea of carving styles from different periods (it's only an idea because later works copy older carving styles).
Then the styles AND the ivory ages have to match for me to say something is early, mid or late 18th/19thC.
So on that basis the first rat you shared is a good candidate for mid (or even late) 19thC.
I have however - as you know Neil - been challenged on my ageing of material. Not so long ago I said something seemed to me to be early 19thC in material, although the subject and carving style seemed earlier. Experts felt it could be a much earlier candidate. As always the more you see and handle, the more examples you have to work with in the head.
In all of this I don't forget our netsuke forefathers. Those netsuke pioneers that without reference books catalogued and aged netsuke. How did they do this? I don't know - but as we've received more knowledge and cross references (mainly thanks to the pioneers) we can see clear contradictions which means they couldn't all be right. So although I don't take these references as gospel, I do treat them with reverence.
I guess what this all boils down to for me, is that I place my faith, and build knowledge around, a core that all stems from material age.
Is this the type of explanation you are looking for?
To answer your specific question posed above - and all examples of material age matched the unsigned 18thC rat (so I shifted back all examples I currently have in mind, 100 years or so) - the unsigned rat would based on my adjusted criteria would be a 17th century or earlier.