19th century netsuke of Benkei carrying a huge temple bell on his back and using a gnarled branch as support. Benkei was a famous 12th century yamabushi (warrior priest), and one of his daring exploits was the theft of the bell of Miidera which he carried to his monastery on the top of the hill. Excellent crisp carving, superb arrogant face, beautiful depiction of his muscles, hairy arms, bark texture and bell decoration, graceful flow to the garments. Great patina, clever design (three points stable base provided by his feet and the branch. Signed SHOMEI on the back. Height 1 1/2 inches.