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About the work

curationist logoCurationist Object Description
An imposing, many-tentacled octopus lurks under the sea in the corner of this Edo-era tsuba. On the reverse side, waves wash shells onto a beach. Octopuses make several appearances in Japanese storytelling. They are sometimes said to have healing powers, and in one theme an octopus is portrayed as the personal physician of the Dragon King of the Sea. An octopus who has sex with a human woman appears in the shunga, or erotic woodblock print, Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife by Katsushika Hokusai. It is one of the best known shunga in the West. In that tale, the octopus intercepts the woman as she dives to steal a gem from the Dragon King’s palace.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Object Description

Sword guard (Tsuba)

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