Museum no. A.957-1910
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 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 an ox. From the 18th century onwards, netsuke were increasingly signed with the carver’s name. This example is signed ‘Tomotada’. Izumiya Tomotada was one of three great netsuke carvers active in Kyoto during the late 18th century. Works by Masanao and Yoshinaga, the other two Kyoto carvers, are comparatively rare. However, there is a large group of netsuke signed ‘Tomotada’ that are of good or exceptional quality. It is known that even in Tomotada’s lifetime there were many forgeries of his work, so identification of genuine signatures is difficult.