This mammoth ivory netsuke of a geisha feeding her baby showcases the tender side of a geisha, who is better known as an erotic entertainer in Japan. Notice the relaxed demure, the way she props her head on her hand and lays down casually, as if relaxing on a bed. With an open kimono, the baby suckles on her breast and seems to be content with the attention.
Geisha feeding her baby
See how the Master Carver has carved and etched the beautiful yet tiny sculpture of a netsuke of the geisha feeding her baby. It is a perfect netsuke for collectors as art pieces as vividly depicted in mammoth ivory are less. Notice the curves of her body as she lies down. The bend of the elbow and the knees, the upturned face of the geisha. See how the baby holds one of her breasts as he/she intends to suckle. The half-naked geisha with the baby, holding her breast signifies the nurturing aspect of a woman’s life despite the erotic symbolism of a geisha in Japanese society.
Intricate details on Netsuke
Look at the complex Japanese hairstyle of the geisha and the accessories used in her hair. Each tiny detail is not only perfectly etched but has been hand painted to give the right effect and bring to the limelight the artistic caliber of the Master Carver. Notice how the robe slips away over the shoulder as she embraces the baby while the kimono sleeve is still around her other shoulder. It looks as if a much-loved mother and baby scene has been aptly captured in the ancient ivory. Check the signature of the artist on the red seal at the bottom of the netsuke while the two holes, mandatory of a netsuke can be seen in the crook of the legs. It has beautiful round designs all around it.
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.
Fossil ivory or mammoth ivory is sensitive to surrounding temperature and harsh climatic conditions have an adverse impact. Due to its sensitivity to humidity and temperature, when it expands and contracts, it can split due to stress. We ensure that only the purest of ivory is used that is free of any imperfection after being acclimatized for a number of years above ground. To protect your ivory, it is recommended that you rub mineral oil twice a year to replenish its natural oils. Renaissance Wax can be used to give it a protective polished shine.
However, please bear in mind and do not:
Spill or put ink on ivory
Make the ivory wet
Put the ivory in direct sunlight
Let the ivory heat up or freeze
Expose the ivory to fluctuations in temperature and humidity
Basic differences between Elephant ivory and mammoth ivory
Using the angles of Schreger lines in Mammoth ivory can differentiate between elephant ivory and fossil ivory. You can see this reflected in the cross section photographs of both elephant and mammoth ivory.
Schreger lines in Elephant Ivory Schreger lines in Mammoth Ivory
It is clearly reflected in the photos that the angle of Schreger lines on the mammoth ivory are less than 90 degrees while those on elephant ivory are more than 115 degrees. This is the best way to do differentiate between the two ivories.
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.