Netsuke, Miwa Koku

Netsuke, Miwa Koku

Netsuke
Miwa Koku
Japan
19th century
Museum no. A.936-1910

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 example. This netsuke of a monkey accidentally combines the skills of Miwa and Kokusai. They were two leading netsukeshi (netsuke craftsmen), both from Edo. Although the first craftsman of the Miwa line was active around 1781, there were several later craftsmen who used the same name. Kokusai was a highly original and inventive carver who widely used stag antler for his work. This netsuke is signed 'Miwa' for the original work. It also carries a stag-antler plaque that reads 'repaired by Koku [Kokusai]'. Presumably Kokusai repaired a treasured netsuke by covering the damaged part with a plaque.