This pair of hand-carved, highly detailed Chinese Foo dogs or guardian lions were created by a master carver whose specialty is the sculpting of detailed mammoth ivory figurines. These figurines are characterized by their clearly distinguishable lines, ferocious facial expressions, and exceptionally subtle details. Most importantly, legend has it that Foo dogs bring good luck and protect you from negativity.
Foo Dog netsuke
This is genuine mammoth ivory. You’ll marvel at the clean curves, the minute details of the upturned faces, and the superior hand carving highlighted in the Foo Dogs’ manes and teeth. The intricate details that have been carved into these pieces are especially noticeable in the crosshatch patterns or “Schreger lines” in the animal’s haunches. You will also notice how each hair of the splendid mane is clearly visible.
Upon further examination, you’ll see the curved protruding tongue of each figurine as well as the black eyeballs of the face and the sharp, threatening teeth in the highly detailed mouth of the beast. The way in which each animal is poised, it’s as though they were prepared to pounce on an opposing creature. It goes without saying that these Foo Dogs are so lifelike that one has to wonder if they were indeed real creatures and not just the creation of the artist’s imagination. The two holes can be seen at the bottom, which are the sign of a netsuke.
Intricate carving of Foo Dogs
Look at the back of these finely hand-carved figurines. You’ll quickly notice how the brown hues have been interspersed with the milky white color of the mammoth ivory. This results from a process that takes place over many centuries as the buried tusks absorb minerals from the earth that serves as their burial sites. Furthermore, it is the characteristic of pure, organic mammoth ivory.
The detail of these handcrafted Foo Dogs is evident throughout. For example, look at the details of the tail and how its hair is spread out. Not only can each individual hair be seen, both figurines are in perfect synchrony with one another. Additionally, the paws have been carved so intricately, that you can see each lion’s claws. These figurines are legal worldwide.
Want to know all about Mammoth ivory?
Fossil ivory or mammoth ivory tusk is procured from the modified two upper incisors of the Woolly mammoth. This fossil ivory or Mastodon ivory is harvested from the fossilized remains of the wooly mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius) that have been extinct since the last 10,000 years. The remains of these huge animals are found in Siberia, Alaska and other regions of Russia. The fossilized ivory is a precious commodity which is extracted from the permafrost and thus, has high antique and historical value. The Mammoth ivory is as good as elephant ivory when it comes to its quality and luster.
Wooly mammoths have been extinct for the past 10,000 years unlike Asian and African elephants so mammoth ivory is not listed in the Appendices to the CITES nor is mammoth ivory subject to control as per the listed Animals and Plants (Protection of Endangered Species) Ordinance, Cap. 187. Mammoth ivory is a precious relic of the past that has been well preserved in the coldest tundra regions of Siberia and Alaska. Thus, mammoths or Mammuthus primigenus is an extinct proboscidan and the only legal source of high grade precious ivory that can be used for carvings.
In recent years, there has been an increase in the demand of mammoth ivory which has led to an unquenchable proportion. But if you look at the current scenario, mammoth ivory is non replenishable. There are only limited mammoth ivory that can be extracted from the fossilized carcass and how long can that be done?
Most researchers have estimated about over 9 million carcasses are still buried under the deep permafrost in the Tundra regions and about the same number are available to be harvested in the higher regions in China. There is a high demand of mammoth ivory in China where not only do sculptors need this powerful medium to carve and sculpt but traditional herbal medicine practitioners require the low quality mammoth ivory chips and dust to put into traditional medicines.
After the banning of elephant ivory in 1999, fossil ivory became much in demand as an alternative medium to elephant ivory. However, there is another aspect of paleontologists and archeologists to harvesting ivory. According to them, excavating the carcass for harvesting the tusks, which has been buried for centuries and converted into a fossil leads to damage of scientific data. But fossil ivory traders have a different view and claim that it is better to unearthed the precious material from the soil and sculpt it for people to enjoy the beauty of ageless ivory.
Mammoth carcasses have been found mostly in Alaska and Siberia under the deep permafrost. In Alaska and Siberia, the constant ongoing tussle between the archeologists and mammoth ivory traders continues with the increase in demand of mammoth ivory as it is the only legal ivory that is used to create some of the most beautiful sculptures.
Even after there are enforced laws that protect Alaska’s ancient heritage and history, there are people that just don’t care. There are numerous interstate commercial traders dealing in illegal mining of whalebone, walrus ivory and mammoth tusks on public land to create jewelry, sculptures, scrimshaws and assorted art pieces.