This netsuke is of a recumbent wood goat by the highly respected artist Kita Tametaka. Tametaka belongs to a group of around 50 carvers who are mentioned in an important work, the first written record of netsuke artists, the so-called Sōken Kishō, which was published in Osaka in 1781 by Inaba Tsûyrû. The part of the Sōken Kishō itself dedicated to netsuke is really little more than a list of these artists with some very sketchy information about them. It is the only record of netsuke carvers between the start of netsuke carving around 1600 and publications in the early 20th century. For this reason, it is quite an important record, and although not all the artists that are mentioned in it are remembered to this day, some of those we consider most highly are recorded in the publication. Tametaka is one of them. He worked exclusively in wood, largely animals, including all 12 animals of the Chinese and Japanese zodiac. He also carved some figural pieces, most of them more legendary figures like Shôki the demon queller, and other such subjects, but predominantly animals. He had an output which probably meant that he was turning out roughly one netsuke a month, probably around 12 netsuke in a year.
We know of between 500-600 netsuke by him. There were likely many that did not survive to this day.
This current netsuke from the Hermitage Museum is a familiar model. The carver liked to return to his subjects, but what is admired about him as an artist is that he usually added some difference whenever he repeated a subject. So, for example, there is another model of a goat where the goat is seated with its front legs straight in front of it looking over one shoulder, and in another model that goat is in the same position but looking over the other shoulder.
He made similar differences with Pekingese dogs. There is a model which he particularly likes of a Pekingese on a cushion, and in that particular case, although there are at least five or six variants of the subject, each is different. He has varied the tilt of the head, the position of the tail, the direction in which the dog is looking. There are all sorts of small differences. His animals tend not to be entirely realistic. He gives them a character all of his own, and he is particularly attracted to shaggy animals, animals with thick coats like this goat here. So, goats are a favorite subject of his. Equally, he carved many netsuke of different types of dogs, but he particularly favored dogs with shaggy coats.
One other point worth making about him is that, traditionally, he is thought to have lived from about 1730 to 1790, but he is also credited with being the father of Nagoya carving. Nagoya is particularly noted for its wood carvers, and most of the school was active in the mid 19th century. So, when he is mentioned in the Sōken Kishō in 1781, I think it is fair to assume that he was probably about 30 years old then, already old enough to have made a reputation for himself, and if he was born around 1750, he could easily have lived to 1830 or so.