Netsuke, Japan

Netsuke, Japan

Netsuke
Japan
About 18th century
Museum no. A.44-1930

The netsuke is a toggle. Japanese men used netsuke to suspend various pouches and containers from their sashes by a silk cord. Netsuke had to be small and not too heavy, yet bulky enough to do the job. They needed to be compact with no sharp protruding edges, yet also strong and hardwearing. Above all they had to have the means of attaching the cord. Although netsuke were made in a variety of forms, the most widely appreciated is the katabori (shape carving). This is a three-dimensional carving, such as this one. Katabori netsuke made in the early 1700s were less concerned with realistic portrayal of their subject. Here, for example, the carver has caught the spirit and character of a dog. However, he has not tried to show surface detail, such as the fur. Another typical feature found on early examples of this type of netsuke is the distinctive himotoshi (cord holes). One hole was considerably larger than the other to accommodate the cord knot, although you cannot see them on this example.