netsuke and sagemono lounge : Disclaimer - Please click anywhere on this bar to expand/contract the content.
Sponsor Announcement:

Woolley & Wallis would like to take this opportunity to invite you to participate in their auction - Japanese & Korean Art, on the 23rd May 2018.

To access the on-line catalogue please click on the banner below.


Image

Please Note: This sponsorship announcement will automatically disappear on the 24th May 2018.

Ivory Tusk Utilization-an example

Discussions and analysis of Elephant Ivory
User avatar
Clive
Posts: 1796
Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2004 9:52 am
Location: UK

Postby Clive » Fri Nov 01, 2013 7:50 pm

Alan, doesn't the grain pattern on the "feet" suggest that they are carved from an entirely different piece of ivory?

User avatar
AFNetsuke
Posts: 6272
Joined: Wed Dec 10, 2008 12:14 am
Location: Central California coast, USA

Postby AFNetsuke » Fri Nov 01, 2013 9:08 pm

That was my initial thought but the "grain" is actually very shallow (?carved) grooves with a bit more staining. Why would the grain lines be depressed? None of my other ivory pieces are like that. They can be felt with a fingernail or even better by sliding the bottom of a foot across your front teeth. I've looked as well as I can to see whether the legs are an insert but they don't appear to be. The heavy stain could hide that however. The robe drapes down to within 4mm of the bottom of the feet so there was clearly enough material at least down to the top of the shoe. There is also an age crack on the lateral left robe that is continuous with the leg. It is possible that the ankles and feet are a plug but my 10X lighted magnifier isn't revealing that. Even if the feet were added why would the back be hollowed out in a nearly perfect arch unless that area was adjacent to the hollow of the tusk. Add the curve of the piece top to bottom and it led me to the conclusion I gave. I wish I had a stereo-microscope to really do more analysis of this thing. Say we broke off the feet and then tried to figure out from what part of the tusk the remainder was carved...that was the main point I think. The turned feet led me to think it was a continuous piece of ivory especially since the left shoe toe lines up nicely with the belly, hand and cheek when the piece lays on its face.
If feet/legs are plugs rather than a continuous single piece of ivory do people feel that devalues a piece? I never really considered whether it does or doesn't. I certainly wouldn't care on a carving of this quality/price. Maybe it matters for better netsuke?
Alan

User avatar
Clive
Posts: 1796
Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2004 9:52 am
Location: UK

Postby Clive » Sat Nov 02, 2013 1:53 pm

Putting the feet aside then Alan, I would agree that the concave shape of the back and the slight top to bottom curve of the piece follows a natural structure found within a tusk. I don't however believe that means the ivory for this particular piece had to come from the material "adjacent to the hollow of the tusk". I think many carvings of this quality were made from very low grade ivory.. material which was of limited use in other crafts. Such material is often characterized by substantial splitting of the tusk along natural concentric structure lines within the tusk. Here's an example of such in a cross-section of mammoth ivory, but the same can and does occur in elephant.


Image

African elephant ivory was traded throughout Asia as was Asian elephant, but since it was sourced much further away by the time it got to the far east it's condition was often pretty bad. Damp holds of ships, rapid changes in temperature and humidity and long overland journeys took its toll on even the most valuable of materials.

Anyway the bottom line is that such natural material splits result in the natural concave shape you see in your piece.. and therefore such a curve does not necessarily mean that the ivory was from the material adjacent to the pulp cavity.

One other consideration is that the extensive wear of your piece suggests that the ivory was fairly soft.. and although that is a characteristic of material from near the base of the tusk, it also is a characteristic of material that has suffered the type of exposure described above. Another is that sections of the material may have undergone other changes in chemistry.. the face of your figure would seem to be of material somewhat more translucent that the body of the piece.

Attachments
1695804_Tusk.jpg

User avatar
AFNetsuke
Posts: 6272
Joined: Wed Dec 10, 2008 12:14 am
Location: Central California coast, USA

Postby AFNetsuke » Sat Nov 02, 2013 11:49 pm

Thanks, Clive. You've offered an alternate explanation. I'm surprised that such a valuable commodity would be subjected to very adverse conditions which would cause the amount of delamination seen in Mammoth ivory sometimes though. But I suppose disasters sometimes happened on ships in the 18th century. It's also possible this came from recycled ivory. FYI, the perceived translucency of the face is not really different than the smooth areas of the lower robes.
Alan

User avatar
Clive
Posts: 1796
Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2004 9:52 am
Location: UK

Postby Clive » Sun Nov 03, 2013 12:49 am

Yes I agree.. elephant ivory wouldn't normally be subjected to the severe conditions typically experienced by mammoth and the picture is an extreme example, but I've seen modern elephant ivory sections in workshops in Hong Kong that had the a similar concentric delamination pattern, albeit to a much less severe degree.

All this said Alan, you still got a nice carving with a terrific face and I don't think new feet (if that's what has been done) seriously devalues the piece. 8-)

All the best
Clive


Return to “Elephant Ivory”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest