Netsuke, Masanari Seikei

Netsuke, Masanari Seikei

Netsuke
Masanari Seikei
Japan
19th century
Museum no. 529-1904

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 hard-wearing. Above all, they had to have the means for attaching a cord. Netsuke were made in a variety of forms, the most widely appreciated being the katabori (shape carving), a three-dimensional carving, such as this one in the form of a rat-catcher. People, whether real, imaginary or historical, provided a rich source of inspiration for netsuke carvers. Of particular appeal during the 19th century were depictions of city life, trades and occupations. This example shows a rat-catcher at work, with a rat crawling across his back. He is extremely realistically carved, his muscles tense and a look of anger on his face as the rat escapes.