Netsuke, Toyomasa

Netsuke, Toyomasa

Netsuke,
Toyomasa
Japan
About 1800-1850
Museum no. A.53-1915

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, which portrays a wild boar running at full gallop. Most of the leading woodblock-printed books included illustrations that could be copied directly or adapted as netsuke. This provided craftsmen with an enormous range of subject-matter. This netsuke closely resembles a page from the Ehon shaho bukuro (Bag of sketching treasures). This book was illustrated by Tachibana Morikuni and published in 1720. Both the illustration and the netsuke show the boar running with all four legs outstretched. This is how people thought animals ran before photographs captured their movements accurately. From the late 1700s onwards, many more makers signed their netsuke. This one is signed Toyomasa. It was probably made by Naito Toyomasa (1773-1856), who was largely responsible for the fame of netsuke in Tanba province.