Story of Sesshū (1421-1507)

Ho (?); Yoshihide (?)
Place made: 
Asia; Japan
Story of Sesshū (1421-1507), 19th-20th century
Wood and ivory; carved with polychrome pigments
Overall: 1 1/2 in x 7/8 in x 1 3/8 in; 3.8 cm x 2.2 cm x 3.5 cm
William Richter Collection, Gift of Margaret Ruth Richter (Class of 1939)
MH 1986.30.97

Sesshū was one of Japan’s most prominent landscape painters of the 15th century. A popular legend states that, as a child, the artist was tied to a temple pillar as penance for being disobedient. Using his own tears, he drew pictures of rats in the surrounding dust and they sprang to life, chewing the cords that bound his hands and feet. This exquisite netsuke depicts Sesshū grasping a brush with his toes and dipping it into an inkwell while three rats scurry to free him.