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Skull and Raven signed Meigyokusai. Meigyokusai was born in 1896. When I visited with him he was in his mid-80's and in excellent health. He told me he had been a student of Asahi Gyokuzan and my interest immediately perked up. I had been particularly interested in a netsuke carved by Asahi Gyokuzan, which had been sold in one of the Hindson Collection sales during the late 50's and early 60's. It depicted a raven picking at a skull. To many this may appear as a grotesque subject, but I had been told it was steeped in Buddhist philosophy ...essentially, "be good while you are alive, because we all end up the same way".

When I told Meigyokusai about my interest in this subject his eyes lit up. He proudly brought me a human skull which had been given to him by his teacher, Asahi Gyokuzan. It had served as Gyokuzan's model for the netsuke I had been so taken with. (This accounts for the anatomically correct detail carved into the ivory). When I asked Meigyokusai if he could carve a netsuke of the same subject he said he could, but it would have to wait until summer when the weather was warm because the ivory had to be perfectly hollowed out and would crack in cold weather. When I finally received my commissioned netsuke I was shocked to see that this carver, at his age, had surpassed the quality and detail of his master's works. 

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