Ito's Netsuke: Cat of Ulthar
Small eldritch sculpture cast in resin and hand painted to look like bone. Measures about 2.5 inches tall. Created by artist Gage Prentiss.
History: Shingen Ito was an artist in Edo-period Japan who carved caricature and grotesque netsuke. After some of his designs were recognized to be members of Tokugawa Court, he was quickly banished to the southernmost island of Yonaguni. Luckily for him, he had family who lived there as fishermen.
For years, he used his dexterity to mend nets while his cousins went out in the boats. His spirit yearned to sculpt again, but his motivation was always sapped by his shame. Then one morning, a strange carcass washed up on the shore. No one could guess what creature it had been. It was too big to be a man, but had long flippers like arms and legs. All Shingen saw were the gleaming white bones poking through the grey flesh. Before they burned the carcass, he took an armful of the bones to carve for when inspiration returned.
That night, he dreamt of the bones, and through them, horrible things. He dreamt of enormous dragon men in maddening underwater temples. He dreamt of yapping, gibbering dog men defiling the graves of his ancestors. He dreamt of wicked lantern demons who slept in frozen wastes, waiting for their hideous formless slaves to awaken them.
When he woke, the night visions assaulted his senses. The only way to subdue the horror was to channel it through his hands. His only peace was the carving of the bones into the nightmares from his visions. Not many of the Netsuke survived to the present day. Loved or hated by the public, they caused scandal wherever they surfaced. Those who owned them were said to suffer the same nightmares as Shingen on humid nights near the ocean. Many were destroyed, or hidden away by collectors. He carved every day until his death two years later. His body was found on the shore, bloated from the water, and missing some bones.