Sold. USA, private collection.
Materials: Tagua nut. Stained. Amber and wild boar fang inlay.
Dimensions: 38×37×31 mm.
See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil - three in one!
The carving of three monkeys at the Toshogu shrine in Nikko (Tochigi Prefecture) is world-famous. It is called the carving of the "monkeys of the three countries" and is said to represent India, China and Japan. They also represent another Japanese pun. The word for "monkey" is saru, and the suffix "-zaru" is a negative ending for a verb. Therefore, the three monkeys become symbols for the words mizaru (lit. "see not"), kikazaru (lit. "hear not"), and iwazaru (lit. "say not"). The English-language translation is, of course, the moralization "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil!" but this was not the intended purpose of the carving and the pun is lost in translation.
The monkey is very curious by nature. I seriously doubt that any monkey would have enough patience to see nothing, hear nothing, or say nothing! That's why I carved this monkey peeking with one eye through its long fingers. The monkey really wants to know what's happening!
The netsuke is carved from a tagua nut and stained. The eye is inlaid with amber and wild boar fang. My signature is engraved in an amber reserve on the bottom.