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The signature, characteristically engraved in an oval cartouche, was that of Masanao of Kyoto, the revered and highly collected 18th century master whose works feature in all of the most celebrated netsuke collections. The subject matter was also most unusual for Masanao - a recumbent kirin. In Japanese folklore seeing a kirin - an animal-god who punishes the wicked with its single horn - is considered an omen of good luck. Only one other kirin carved by Masanao is recorded and it currently resides in a private collection in New York.

It was bought over the telephone by a Japanese buyer against the Nio Gallery in London, specialists in netsuke, inro and ojime, who were bidding in the room.