Museum no. 445-1904
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. From 1750 onwards, customers increasingly demanded imaginative and innovative netsuke. This example shows a monkey climbing a bamboo shoot. The craftsman has skilfully carved the monkey from a solid piece of stag antler so that it can actually move up and down. This netsuke is signed Masayuki. He was a netsukeshi (netsuke craftsman) of the Asakusa line and was active from about 1850 to the late 1800s. Asakusa was a district of Tokyo (formerly Edo) that produced a number of craftsmen who worked in a distinctive style. They were all strongly influenced by Kokusai, who was the greatest master of this style. Asakusa netsuke are usually made from stag antler, which was a relatively inexpensive material. The designs are very original and humorous and are carved in a distinctive and highly original style.