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A netsuke from c.1830 by Ryusansai Issan, available for £3500 from Rosemary Bandini.

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In the Asian zodiac this is the year of the rat. Traditionally it signals an auspicious year for those born under that sign, who are said to be quick-witted and independent.

According to myth, it is the first animal in the cycle, winning its place by tricking the other animals in a race to the Jade Emperor.

Japanese art dealer Rosemary Bandini marked the start of the year offering a netsuke, c.1830, by Ryusansai Issan. Five rats scramble over each other as they vie for a chestnut, clasped in the paws of one.

Little is known about this carver who worked in wood and gave his animals horn-inlaid eyes. His signature usually appears within a reserve. It comes from the Larry Caplan Collection and is available for £3500.

rosemarybandini.com