Museum no. A.54-1952
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 to a cord. Netsuke were made in a variety of forms, the most widely appreciated is the katabori (shape carving), a three-dimensional carving, such as this one in the form of a dragon in a Chinese lantern plant. The great skill of this netsuke carver lay in contrasting the shape and texture of this apparently unlikely combination of subjects. A netsuke portraying one of the animals from the East Asian zodiac was particularly associated with New Year festivities of the appropriate year, but could also be used any time during that particular year. It could also be used again in 12 years time in accordance with the cycle.